Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly defended the administration’s decision to deport a Honduran mother and her 5-year-old child back to their violence-ridden homeland, saying that if Congress doesn’t want the administration doing that it should change the law.
“You can’t pick and choose the laws that you follow. I can’t pick and choose the laws I enforce,” Kelly said Thursday morning at a forum on poverty and violence in Central America, which experts blame for a surge of migrants arriving along the southern border.
Kelly was addressing a tweetstorm aimed at the White House Wednesday by Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, over the deportation. Casey said the mother had been threatened with death in Honduras.
The mother and her son were put on a plane back to Honduras Wednesday after spending more than a year in family detention centers in the United States fighting for the right to stay in the country.
“Here’s their story: the 5yr old’s mother witnessed the murder of her cousin in Honduras and was being pursued by gangs,” Casey tweeted out Wednesday in a series of tweets. “Targeted for death, this mother fled with her 5 yr old child. The child is potentially eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.”
The two were among a dozen mothers and children who had been held over a year at the Berks County Residential Center outside Reading, Pennsylvania. It’s one of three family detention centers used by the administration in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, and Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Casey said he had spoken with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus about the case and was told Preibus was looking into the situation. Seeing that assertion on Twitter surprised the White House. A senior administration official told McClatchy that calling out the chief of staff on Twitter would not help their working relationship.
Casey also accused Kelly of avoiding his call, but the secretary said he tried at least five times to reach Casey back. Kelly accused Casey of going to the press with “outrageous” stories about why DHS deports someone. The two eventually spoke on Thursday, according to Casey’s staff.
Kelly said the mother had ample opportunities to prove they should be allowed to stay, but were denied by every court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
“You have to understand that ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security, John Kelly, I don’t, we don’t deport people,” Kelly said. “The law deports people.”