President Trump and his Homeland Security chief appeared at first glance to stake out conflicting positions on Thursday regarding the use of military operations in immigration raids in the U.S.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Mexico City, DHS Sec. John Kelly insisted that military forces will not be used during immigration enforcement actions in the U.S. But just hours earlier, Trump stated that the roundup of criminal aliens in the U.S. is “a military operation.”
So how to explain the seemingly contradictory claims?
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump was using the term “military operation” to describe the characteristics of the “flawless” immigration enforcement actions, which he said have been carried out with military-like “precision.”
“The president was using that as an adjective, it’s happening with precision,” Spicer told reporters at the daily press briefing.
“The President is clearly describing the manner in which this was being done.”
“I think the way it’s being done, by all accounts, is being done with a very high degree of precision and in a flawless manner in making sure the orders are being carried out.”
Speaking at the White House earlier in the day, Trump called the roundup of criminal aliens “a military operation.”
“What’s happening at the border: for the first time we are getting gang lords out, drug lords out. These bad dudes out of this country and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before and they’re the bad ones,” Trump said.
“It’s a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country…much of that is because people are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.”
This is notable. Trump: “We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country … it’s a military operation.”
A military operation. pic.twitter.com/PgU02sg9AW
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 23, 2017
At a joint press conference with Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, Kelly chided the media over its reporting on the use of the military in immigration actions.
His frustration was most likely a response to an Associated Press report from last week that DHS had plans to deploy the National Guard to carry out immigration raids. But the proposal was only a draft and was never taken seriously, the White House has said.
“I repeat, there will be no use of military forces in immigration. At least half of you try to get that right because it continually comes up in the reporting,” Kelly said, addressing reporters in the room.
During his brief remarks, Kelly also said that immigration agencies will not engage in mass deportations. He also pledged that deportations “will be according to our legal justice system.”