Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly softened the administration’s rhetoric on immigration Thursday, contradicting President Donald Trump’s characterization of his deportation plan as he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to repair the strained relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.
“There will be no — repeat — no mass deportations. Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States,” Kelly said Thursday at a joint press conference in Mexico City with Tillerson and Mexican officials.
“And again, listen to this. No — repeat — no use of military force in immigration operations. None,” he added. “At least half of you try to get that right because it continually comes up in the reporting.”
While his message likely played well with Mexican officials, Kelly’s comments ran counter to what Trump himself had said just hours earlier. Claiming that the U.S. “for the first time” was rooting out gang members and drug lords, Trump told reporters “it’s a military operation.”
Asked about the mixed messages, White House press secretary Sean Spicer blamed the different statements on semantics.
“The president was using that as an adjective,” he said. “The president was clearly describing the manner in which this was being done.”