The Trump administration doubled down Tuesday on its commitment to transforming the nation’s border law enforcement, signaling that some of the temporary bans on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries are likely to be made permanent and elevating a deportations official to run the top immigration enforcement agency.
Administration officials, led by newly sworn-in Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, moved to allay the havoc that marked the rollout of the ban and another on refugees. They briefed reporters and planned to head to Capitol Hill later Tuesday in an apparent effort to smooth relations, after reports that lawmakers and other stakeholders were left out of the crafting of the executive order on toughened vetting at border entry points.
In a news conference, Kelly and other top Homeland Security officials conceded some problems, including poor communication. But they insisted that all court orders were followed over the weekend, rebutted reports that some legal residents were denied access to attorneys at airports and said that everyone detained by border agents was treated with “dignity and respect.”
“The vast majority of the 1.7 billion Muslims that live on this planet, the vast majority of them have, all other things being equal, have access to the United States,” Kelly told reporters. “And a relatively small number right now are being held up for a period of time until we can take a look at what their procedures are,” he said, seeming to acknowledge that mostly Muslims have been affected by the ban.
The moves signaled that the White House remained committed to remaking border law enforcement even in the face of widespread confusion and condemnation of President Donald Trump’s order.
Kelly said for the first time that the some of the restrictions that caused confusion and sparked protests over the weekend could be extended well into the future.
“Some of those countries that are currently on the list may not be taken off the list anytime soon,” he said.
Trump also named a longtime deportation officer, Thomas D. Homan, as acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Homan, who will oversee the execution of Trump’s immigration enforcement order, was most recently in charge of the agency’s 5,000 deportation officers, a force Trump said he would triple to 15,000.
Trump’s orders put a greater emphasis on deporting not only those convicted of crimes, but also people in the country illegally who were charged with crimes not yet adjudicated, those who receive an improper welfare benefit and even those who have not been charged but are believed to have committed “acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”