Kelly: Im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests mean that U.S. is ‘en­forc­ing the law’

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY JOSHUA PARTLOW joshua.partlow@wash­post.com

mex­ico city — Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly on Fri­day de­fended the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of tar­get­ing im­mi­grant fam­i­lies that pay to bring their chil­dren up from Cen­tral Amer­ica, say­ing that the United States is fi­nally “en­forc­ing the law” on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in that and other ways.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view at the con­clu­sion of a three-day visit to Mex­ico, Kelly de­scribed the mi­grant flow, which has sent hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple north to the United States in re­cent years, as an “over­whelm­ingly eco­nomic” phe­nom­e­non rather than a mat­ter of peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence, as many in Cen­tral Amer­ica in­sist.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents have fo­cused on de­tain­ing and de­port­ing peo­ple with crim­i­nal records, he said, de­spite al­le­ga­tions from the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment and oth­ers about a wider crack­down. But they have also be­gun ar­rest­ing peo­ple who pay smug­glers to bring their chil­dren or other young rel­a­tives into the coun­try.

“If they do have fam­ily in the United States that then says, ‘We’ll take them and spon­sor them,’ we’re go­ing to look at the fam­ily,” Kelly said of young­sters ap­pre­hended at the bor­der. “If the fam­ily is il­le­gal in the United States and we can make the case, which I think is very easy to make, that they were part of this hu­mans­mug­gling process, then they broke the law. And we’ll take the ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures.”

Pres­i­dent Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­ders and harsh rhetoric on im­mi­gra­tion have alarmed many im­mi­grants and im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates. While de­por­ta­tions are sim­i­lar to lev­els un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the num­ber of ar­rests of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants has risen sharply un­der Trump.

Mex­i­can of­fi­cials have grown in­creas­ingly con­cerned about who is be­ing de­ported from the United States and raised that is­sue with Kelly dur­ing his visit. The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment, through its em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, has com­piled a list of de­por­tees who may have been “sub­ject to a vi­o­la­tion of due process” and are look­ing for re­lief from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, said Car­los Sada, a deputy for­eign min­is­ter in charge of North Amer­i­can af­fairs.

“Th­ese cases are some­thing where the law has been ap­plied dra­mat­i­cally,” Sada said in an in­ter­view.

Sada said that ICE agents are ap­ply­ing the law more strictly than in the past and that they should use more “flex­i­bil­ity,” par­tic­u­larly in cases of im­mi­grants who have lived for years in the United States, have chil­dren, are not vi­o­lent and do not pose a threat to the coun­try.

Kelly, in the in­ter­view, said that ICE “doesn’t do sweeps, doesn’t do road­blocks, doesn’t do raids into places of em­ploy­ment where they round ev­ery­one up and check on them.”

But in the course of an ar­rest, an agent can ask other peo­ple in the vicin­ity about their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus and de­tain those peo­ple, Kelly said.

“We much pre­fer to do th­ese in jails, but since many jails don’t co­op­er­ate with us, then we have to do this in neigh­bor­hoods,” he said.

The other pop­u­la­tion of de­por­tees, he said, con­sists of peo­ple who have gone through the im­mi­gra­tion court process and been or­dered to leave the coun­try.

“Th­ese are court-or­dered de­por­ta­tions,” he said. “I get a lot of calls from mem­bers of Congress on in­di­vid­ual cases. What I say to them is: ‘I’ve got a court or­der. I can’t ig­nore it.’

“I’m go­ing af­ter the peo­ple who have bro­ken U.S. law, in ad­di­tion to be­ing in the United States il­le­gally,” he said. “So when mem­bers of Congress and oth­ers threaten me and chas­tise me for not us­ing my dis­cre­tion, I am.”

Kelly said that un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, about 45,000 peo­ple of Mex­i­can de­scent have been de­tained in the United States but that the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment has called to ques­tion a “hand­ful” of the cases.

Be­fore Trump’s pri­vate meet­ing with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto at the Group of 20 sum­mit Fri­day in Hamburg, Trump told re­porters that he “ab­so­lutely” still wants Mex­ico to pay for his pro­posed bor­der wall. Kelly said that in dis­cus­sions with Mex­i­can of­fi­cials since Wed­nes­day, “we didn’t once talk about the wall.”

Kelly — who was ac­com­pa­nied for parts of his visit here by CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo and Sen. Tom Cot­ton (R-Ark.), a mem­ber of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee — held a num­ber of meet­ings with top Mex­i­can of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Peña Ni­eto and For­eign Min­is­ter Luis Vide­garay.

On Thurs­day, Kelly met with the lead­ers of Mex­ico’s army and navy at a mil­i­tary base in Acapulco, which has been the dead­li­est Mex­i­can city for sev­eral years run­ning. On the same morn­ing as his visit, a prison riot in Acapulco left 28 peo­ple dead, sev­eral of them be­headed, ac­cord­ing to Mex­i­can of­fi­cials.

Along with the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary lead­ers, Kelly flew to the opium poppy fields of Guer­rero state and watched as Mex­i­can sol­diers burned crops. Guer­rero pro­duces more than half of Mex­ico’s poppy and sup­plies much of the heroin con­sumed in the United States. Kelly de­scribed the U.S. opi­oid epi­demic — in which some 60,000 peo­ple died last year — as a cri­sis that needs more at­ten­tion.

“We should be ashamed of our­selves at not hav­ing got­ten our arms around this prob­lem,” he said.

MATT MCCLAIN/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly says fam­i­lies pay­ing for child smug­gling face pros­e­cu­tion.

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