White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is facing strident backlash for making crass comments about undocumented immigrants.
During an interview NPR published Thursday evening, Kelly said that the “vast majority” of undocumented immigrants are not “bad people” or “criminals,” they’re just “rural people” who lack skills and education and don’t assimilate well.
Here’s the full comment, via NPR:
“Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13. … But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. … The big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
Kelly was responding to a question about Attorney General Jeff Sessions new “zero tolerance” policy for crossings at the border.
Some former Obama administration officials and journalists lashed out against the basis of his claims.
WH COS John Kelly says that immigrants from rural areas without English skills don’t integrate into the U.S.
My dad came from rural China and spoke little English. He raised a son who held the same rank in the Obama WH (Asst. to the Pres.) that Kelly holds. I’d say we did okay. pic.twitter.com/m1fW3oqmRz
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) May 11, 2018
My grandparents came to US after escaping a pogrom. Grandfather never learned to read English. My father didn't speak English till he started school. He was on the team that designed the stealth fighter and before that the SR-71 Blackbird.
John Kelly is a disgrace. https://t.co/JRRrE6Oy06
— Gershom Gorenberg (@GershomG) May 11, 2018
John Kelly would have saved himself a lot of words if he just said “they aren’t white.” https://t.co/jZ22fRNAby
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) May 11, 2018
Thursday is not the first time Kelly has come under fire for his comments about immigrants. During a meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Kelly reportedly said that some young undocumented immigrants who are eligible to sign up for DACA benefits are “too lazy to get off their asses” and enroll.