And how does he continue to affect immigrant lives? The definitive guide to Kelly’s history as DHS chief and chief of staff
Retired four-star Marine general John F. Kelly is Donald Trump’s current Chief of Staff and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Initially, Kelly was seen as the “adult in the room” for the Trump Administration; however, his tenure in both roles has proven how much he is like Trump and the rest of the Administration’s anti-immigrant extremists. Kelly has become known for his record of draconian and inhumane immigration enforcement, in which ICE arrests soared 40 percent between 2016 and 2017, and is viewed as the “enabler in chief” for Trump’s radicalism.
From the immigration policy that Kelly has implemented to what he’s said about immigration to his conduct elsewhere, below is a record of how John Kelly fits in all too perfectly with Trump’s extremist Administration:
What John Kelly did at the Department of Homeland Security
In six short months at DHS, Kelly:
- Released new deportation guidelines that sought to strip immigrants of privacy protections, enlist local police officers as enforcers, erect new detention facilities, discourage asylum seekers, and speed up deportations.
- Considered separating mothers and children at the border to “deter” immigrants from coming to the U.S.; accused refugees of trying to manipulate the system.
- Ordered ICE to portray immigrants as criminals to justify sweeping ICE raids across the country.
- Supported lifting polygraph test requirements for certain new CBP and ICE hires, despite a history of ICE and CBP abuse. Former officials from these agencies said this would compromise the integrity of those agencies.
- Renewed temporary protected status for Haitians for only six months, even though living conditions in Haiti won’t be hospitable for years to come. DHS later ended TPS for Haitians with an 18-month delay despite popular pushback and urging by 19 attorneys generals for a solution.
- Grossly mishandled his final ICE raid, in which 70% of immigrants detained were not even the original targets of the raid.
- Chaotically mishandled the Trump Administration’s Muslim ban, which led to travelers being stranded inside airports and outside the country; courts struck down multiple versions of the ban.“This is all on me,” Kelly, who supported the Muslim ban, testified.
Under Kelly’s watch, DHS:
- Deported thousands of mothers and fathers with no criminal histories
- Conducted “silent raids” rounding up immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years and were following ICE’s rules for checking in annually
- Detained U.S. citizens as well as legal immigrants
- Deported immigrants captured by ICE under unscrupulous circumstances (i.e., targeted a worker who legally requested workers’ compensation for a broken leg)
- Violated ICE policy at “sensitive locations” including churches, schools, and courthouses, specifically allowing agents to arrest crime victims and witnesses at the latter
- Rejected asylum seekers at the southern border, violating international law
- Allowed ICE to conduct retaliatory raids on safe cities
- Arrested immigrants without criminal records at double-digit rate increases over the previous year
- Detained one DACA-mented Dreamer with false gang accusations and another DACA-mented Dreamer for speaking out about her case
- Suspended Central American Minors (CAM) Program
- Reduced annual refugee admission into the United States to 50,000, down from 110,000
- Created tougher asylum rules by removing reasonable doubt language for credible-fear interviews that would secure a hearing with a judge
- Detained asylum seekers indefinitely, even when they passed their credible-fear interviews
- Reclassified unaccompanied minor refugees as simply undocumented immigrants, allowing faster deportation through expedited removals
- Prosecuted parents of unaccompanied children, claiming they were involved with human trafficking
- Allowed Border Patrol to aggressively broaden deportation enforcement in the interior U.S. and within the 100-mile border zone, including on buses and trains
Things John Kelly has said
- Kelly called eligible DACA applicants “too lazy to get off their asses”
- While Kelly has reportedly been responsible for purging some Trump Administration staffers, he’s allowed right-wing white nationalists like Stephen Miller to stay and thrive. [Kelly] “turns out to have been more hawkish that I might have expected. It’s a pleasant surprise,” said Mark Krikorian, the executive director for the hard-line anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies.
- Kelly told Fox that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” he said, touching off sharp criticism on his stance on slavery.
- Kelly accused Central American refugees of manipulating the system and called unaccompanied minors feeling violence a “huge scam.”
- Kelly said he wants to admit between 0 and 1 refugees into U.S.
- Kelly said he will “never” apologize for his false claim against U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), whom he accused of making self-aggrandizing comments. Kelly lashed out after Wilson’s criticism of Trump’s upsetting telephone conversation with the grieving widow of La David T. Johnson, an Army sergeant who was killed in an ambush in Niger. A video quickly proved Kelly’s claim against Rep. Wilson wrong, but Kelly never apologized.
- Kelly doesn’t think civilians should criticize the military.
- He said integrating women into the military would lead to lower standards and that Marines would die from the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
- Kelly said it was “inconceivable” why any city would want to be a safe city,” even though it’s well-documented that immigrant-friendly cities are associated with lower crime rates.
- Kelly told members of Congress to “shut up” if they didn’t like policies he was implementing. “If the laws are not good laws, then change them. Don’t call me, or Twitter or tweet, or go to the press.” This ignored the fact that Kelly has broad powers to act on immigration cases. And, when Congressional Democrats tried to change immigration laws when Kelly was Chief of Staff, he opposed those changes.
John Kelly since becoming Chief of Staff
- Supported close ally Kirstjen Nielsen to be his successor at DHS; Nielsen has been a rubber stamp for Kelly’s tough stance on immigration.
- Took an active role in immigration policy that was highly unusual for a chief of staff, said Chris Whipple, the author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff. “This is abnormal. He’s been more partisan than almost any chief of staff I can think of.”
- Demanded immigration legislation that would have included billions in border wall funding, decreased legal immigration, and destroyed the ability of immigrants to reunite with family members.
- Helped kill the bipartisan DACA deal by making the phone call that ended immigration negotiations, and recommended against Trump signing a short-term extension of DACA approved by lawmakers.
- Tried to pressure acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke’s temporary protected status (TPS) decision for Honduras
- Kelly acknowledged mishandling accusations about Rob Porter, a former White House staff secretary who resigned amid accusations of domestic violence by his two ex-wives. Kelly aggressively defended Porter, told him to “stay and fight” despite reportedly knowing about Porter’s domestic abuse history, and called him a “man of true integrity and honor” and a “friend, a confidante and a trusted professional” whom he was “proud to serve alongside.” As a Vox article noted, Kelly has a history of believing men over women.
Quotes about John Kelly
- U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Kelly is a “disgrace to the uniform he used to wear” and called for his resignation over his failure to act on DACA.
- Former Marine Corps officer Shawn Turner called upon Kelly to resign for failure to take action on domestic violence allegations against Rob Porter that Kelly knew about and defended. Citing Kelly’s “extraordinary lapse in judgement and moral courage,” callous indifference to his responsibility to do the right thing, betrayal of trust, and complete fabrication of the facts, Turner called for his immediate resignation.
- “Kelly has failed in almost every way you can fail as White House chief of staff. Even by his own narrow definition — he was not going to manage the president, just run the West Wing — that train is off the rails,” Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” told the Boston Globe, which called for Kelly’s resignation due to his gross incompetence, failed crisis management, misrepresentation of reality, and insubordination.
- The Baltimore Sun called for Kelly’s resignation for committing the “cardinal sin” in the matter of Rob Porter for acting “wholly incompetently…and then misrepresenting to the public what he did and did not know.”
- Vox called upon Kelly to resign due to his lies, defense of a sexual abuser, and disrespect for Blacks, Latino Americans, and women.
- U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called for Kelly’s resignation, saying he was “complicit” with Rob Porter, “couldn’t keep his lies straight,” and “he has no credibility.”
- National Organization for Women President Toni Van Pelt argued for Kelly to remove himself, and stated: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly must resign…John Kelly has shown his true colors. He’s on Team ‘Grab Them By The Pussy,’ leaving women who are victimized by sexual violence to fend for themselves.”