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Immigration 101: Who Is John Kelly?


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:

Under Kelly’s watch, DHS:

Things John Kelly has said

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.”