Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, in an interview on Sunday, elaborated on his agency’s plans to step up arrests and deportations of illegal immigrants.
He said that previously, it would have been highly unlikely for the Obama administration to deport anyone for lower-level offenses. Most deportations, under the previous administration have been due to high-profile crimes such as murder and rape.
During the interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Kelly suggested that the threshold for deportation will be much lower this time around.
“Can you give me an example of somebody that wasn’t deported before that you’re deporting now?” Todd asked.
Kelly responded, “Well, someone, as an example, with multiple DUIs — even a single DUI, depending on other aspects, would get you into the system.”
Before that question, the host asked Secretary Kelly if the definition of a “criminal” has changed under President Trump.
“It is fair to say the definition of ‘criminal’ has not changed,” Kelly replied. “But where on the spectrum of criminality we operate has changed.”
His comments come just a few days after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the southwestern border and announced to the Border Patrol agents that the nation is now stepping into a “a new era” of immigration and customs enforcement.
“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era,” Sessions said. “This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch-and-release practices of the past are over.”
Sessions also instructed federal attorneys, on Tuesday, to prosecute anyone who harbors illegal immigrants. He urged prosecutors to prioritize those who are involved in protecting or transporting three or more people living in the country illegally, and also those who protect violent offenders.
However, during the interview, the DHS chief made it quite clear that the shift in immigration law is not to create a harsh climate for immigrants but instead about upholding the law.
“You’ve got to remember, there’s a legal justice system in place,” Kelly said. “The law deports people. Secretary Kelly doesn’t. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] doesn’t. It’s the United States criminal justice system — or the justice system — that deports people.”