Trump’s immigration positions ‘uninformed’, says his chief of staff John Kelly

“A concrete wall from sea to shining sea” is not going to happen, Kelly is reported to have told lawmakers on Wednesday during immigration negotiations.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2018 10:16 IST
White House chief of staff John Kelly appears on Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News in Washington on Wednesday.(AP)

Some of US President Donald Trump’s campaign promises on immigration, including the wall along the border with Mexico, were “uninformed” and his position on some related issues have evolved, chief of staff John Kelly told lawmakers on Wednesday during immigration negotiations.

This could put Kelly at odds with his boss, who has displayed no patience for members of his team differing with him publicly. However, there was not a word from the president or the White House so far on Kelly’s remarks, first reported by The Washington Post and subsequently by most others.

The chief of staff has also said the president’s position on DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children — had evolved. He is no longer opposed to legitimising their stay, as he was as a candidate.

The reports did not indicate if Kelly’s assessment of Candidate Trump’s “uninformed” positions on immigration extended to H-1B visas, which is used by Indian IT students and professionals to come to the United States to work, with hopes of staying on. Indians account for 70% of the 85,000 such visas given out annually.

Indians hired by IT firms with operations in the United States, such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, have been in the crosshairs of the administration, and named in connection with the president’s directive to prevent the visa program from being used/abused to take away American jobs.

As the programme is being reviewed on orders of the president, who wants it to be insulated from abuse and fraud, the administration has been incrementally tightening related rules, regulations and processes turning H-1Bs effectively into a pathway to the American Dream fraught with uncertainties.

Kelly confirmed his remarks in an interview to Fox News, the president’s go-to news channel for news and views, saying, “He has evolved in the way he looks at things. Campaign to governing are two different things and this president has been very flexible in terms of what’s in the realm of the possible.”

The chief of staff’s first remarks came at a closed-door meeting with the Hispanic congressional caucus over at Capitol Hill. According to the Post, Kelly, in response to a question about the wall, said, “Certain things are said during the campaign that are uninformed.”

“A concrete wall from sea to shining sea” is not going to happen, Kelly is reported to have said, adding that the administration was certain Mexico will never pay for the wall directly as Trump had promised he would ensure.

Also, the chief of staff said the government was focussing on the situation of Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children — whose protection from deportation lapses in March, unless Congress can reinstate it through a legislation that is the subject of intense debate and negotiations.

Kelly, a retired marine corps general who is said to have brought discipline to a chaotic White house, might have a better chance of getting away with such a public breach with his boss because Trump seems to hold military leaders to a different standard, and has often been seen unwilling to take them on.

There are quite a few military personnel in senior positions in the Trump administration, both retired and serving. The others include defense secretary James Mattis, CIA director Mike Pompeo and present and former National Security Advisers H R McMaster and Michael Flynn.

Kelly’s remarks about his boss, as recounted by Democrats at the meeting, were not pleasant.

“I can confirm that Chief of Staff Kelly said today that the President’s campaign was not fully informed about the wall he was promising to voters,” Luis V Gutierrez, one of them, said in a statement.

“Kelly went on to say that many campaigns are not fully informed about every policy, and that campaigning and governing are two different things and that governing is harder.

“Kelly took credit for educating the President on the wall and that a concrete barrier from sea to shining sea was no longer the conception of border security barriers supported today by the White House,” he said.

First Published: Jan 18, 2018 09:15 IST