DHS secretary takes blame for immigration order rollout, defends ban
HHS Secretary John Kelly took the blame Tuesday for the hasty rollout of President Trump’s order suspending immigration from seven countries, while defending the measure as “lawful and constitutional.”
“It’s all on me,” Kelly told the GOP-led House Homeland Security Committee, acknowledging lawmakers were not fully apprised.
“I should have delayed it just a bit so I could have talked to members of Congress,” Kelly said. “Going forward, I would have certainly taken some time to inform Congress, and that’s something I look forward to in the future.”
Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order suspended the U.S. refugee program and largley banned immigration and travel from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days. Kelly said Monday, as he said last week, that the order was crafted before he was confirmed as DHS secretary.
The order, which caused confusion for green-card holders and others before the administration made clear they would not be affected, has since been held up in federal court with a hearing set for late Tuesday in California.
Trump, ahead of a White House meeting with county sheriffs, voiced confidence Tuesday in his administration’s case ahead.
“We have to have security in our country,” Trump said, adding that his team would take its case “through the system.” Asked if that means the dispute will land before the Supreme Court, he said: “We’ll see. Hopefully it doesn’t have to.”
Kelly also acknowledged before the GOP-led committee Tuesday that some of the order’s core tenants are problematic but said “it’s still my belief we will prevail.”
“We believe [the order] is lawful and constitutional,” said Kelly, who also gave his support for Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, opened the hearing, Kelly’s first as Homeland secretary, by saying, “This country is eager to work with you. … Your job won’t be easy.”
The Texas Republican also said the rollout of the executive order has been “problematic.”
Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the committee, acknowledged that Kelly was being called upon to explain and defend an order about which he had little prior knowledge.
“Frankly, it is somewhat unfair,” he said.