Published: Wed, February 08, 2017
National | By Miranda Cannon

DHS Chief: Travel, Immigration Ban Should Have Been Delayed

Kelly told a House panel Tuesday that "this is a pause right now as we sort these issues out". Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security panel, said even the suggestion of a Muslim ban could alienate allies and embolden adversaries.

Kelly was put on the defensive by Democratic lawmakers who have argued that the travel ban is inhumane, counterproductive and essentially a Muslim ban - an allegation Kelly repeatedly denied.

Kelly said that he was not criticizing any judge but asserted that their considerations were "academic" and possibly in a "vacuum". Trump insists that Mexico will reimburse USA taxpayers for the cost, but Mexico has vowed that it will not pay for the barrier.

Kelly said it's hard to say how long a wall or walls will take to build because it depends on funding.

But Kelly says U.S. Customs and Border Protection workers he talks to say they need physical barriers backed up by people and technology.

Human Rights First urges that all DHS actions - including those relating to asylum, immigration detention, parole and interdiction - must comply with and respect with the provisions of US laws and USA treaty obligations, including the Refugee Protocol and Convention Against Torture.

Kelly calls the lack of fencing in some areas "a gaping wound in our defenses".

Kelly said he believed the order was "lawful and constitutional" and that the administration would win the legal battle.

At a congressional hearing Tuesday, Kelly defended the travel ban, saying "the pause made an terrible lot of sense". New Jersey Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman asked why these specific countries were chosen when there is no evidence that citizens of these nations have carried out terrorist attacks on USA soil. The United States-including DHS officers-gathers extensive information and documentation from refugees during the resettlement consideration process.

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Separately, in a Tweet on Sunday, the president said: "Christians in the Middle East have been executed in large numbers". Muslim immigrants are spreading goodwill about America's freedoms around the world.

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The order halts the Syrian refugee program and bans people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the U.S. Schumer said Senate Democrats would introduce legislation to overturn the order and move it as quickly as they can.

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on - close quote, that is a quote", Coleman said. According to court testimony, the ban has - in practice - resulted in the revocation of around 100 thousand visas.

He said there was no particular increase in the perceived threat level precipitating the ban, but that immigration procedures needed to be reviewed especially from the seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Kelly responded: "Not until the boom". He also said he probably shouldn't have executed the order on a Friday afternoon.

Jack Kelly testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Thompson was asking about Trump's tweet that "many very bad and risky people may be pouring into our country".

The Jan. 27 executive order bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, and indefinitely halts refugees from Syria. The Trump administration appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco to reinstate the travel ban while the case progresses.

"It is somewhat unfair that Secretary Kelly is being called upon to defend an Executive Order that, by most accounts, he was required to implement with nearly no notice", Representative Bennie Thompson of MS said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly pushed back this afternoon against a report that he was confronted by Steve Bannon over the travel ban.

Kelly has said the ban was meant to keep the country safe while the administration reviews how some visitors, refugees and would-be immigrants are screened before they are allowed into the United States. The administration is appealing the order.

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