Outgoing White House chief John Kelly said in an interview published on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s idea of building a “wall” at the Mexico border was dropped earlier.
Building a solid “wall” along the 3,200-kilometer U.S.-Mexico frontier was a central plank of Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
As a partial government shutdown entered the ninth day due to an impasse over Trump’s demands for funding the U.S.-Mexico border barrier, the president’s chief of staff gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times, and said: “To be honest, it’s not a wall.”
“The president still says ‘wall.’ Oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats,” said Kelly, adding that we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.
However, what Kelly said seems in contradiction with what Trump has done. In 2018 alone, Trump has tweeted about the “wall” almost 100 times.
“Either we build (finish) the wall or we close the border,” Trump, who has adopted the 2020 re-election mantra “promises made, promises kept” posted on Friday.
As a former Marine general who led the military command responsible for Latin America, Kelly was Trump’s Homeland Security secretary before becoming White House chief of staff in July 2017.
His relationship with the president has reportedly deteriorated, and he is set to be replaced by Mick Mulvaney, the current budget director.
A group of Central American migrants look for a spot to cross the U.S.-Mexico border fence from Tijuana into the U.S.,December 30, 2018. /VCG Photo
“Illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly, are not bad people,” said Kelly in the interview, adding that many had been manipulated by traffickers.
“I have nothing but compassion for them, the young kids.”
The remarks were in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of the president who takes a hard line on immigration.
Trump has spoken of an “invasion” of migrants and complained of “many gang members and some very bad people” among a thousand-strong caravan of immigrants that traveled to the U.S. in October.