MEXICO CITY — Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly on Friday defended the Trump administration’s policy of targeting immigrant families that pay to bring their children up from Central America, saying that the United States is finally “enforcing the law” on illegal immigration in that and other ways.
During an interview at the conclusion of a three-day visit to Mexico, Kelly described the migration flow, which has sent hundreds of thousands of people north to the United States in recent years, as an “overwhelmingly economic” phenomenon rather than a matter of people fleeing violence, as many in Central America insist.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have focused on detaining and deporting people with criminal records, he said, despite allegations from the Mexican government and others about a wider crackdown. But they have also begun arresting people who pay smugglers to bring their children or other young relatives into the country.
“If they do have family in the United States that then says, ‘We’ll take them and sponsor them,’ we’re going to look at the family,” Kelly said of youngsters apprehended at the border.
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