President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly said in a National Public Radio (NPR) interview that aired Friday morning that people immigrating to the United States “don’t have skills.”
The claim was one of many Kelly made about immigrants who move illegally to the U.S. He noted that the majority of people immigrating to the U.S. “are not bad people,” and that they aren’t criminals. But he also generalized and said those immigrants are “rural people” who wouldn’t assimilate to life in the U.S. and who don’t speak English.
It was unclear on what Kelly was basing his claims. He said he sympathizes with those who want to come to the U.S. but that “laws are laws.” Prior to taking on the role of chief of staff, Kelly served as secretary of Homeland Security.
In 2012, statistics from the United States Census Bureau showed that 44 percent of the foreign-born immigrants over the age of 5 who came to the U.S. in 2000 or in the years following spoke English “very well.” This means English was the language they spoke at home or that the person self-reported speaking the language well. Only 13 percent of immigrants at that time didn’t speak English at all, the census showed, which is far from the majority group Kelly referred to in the interview.
Trump campaigned on stopping illegal immigration in part by promising to build a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. His administration has since canceled temporary residence permits for thousands, issued executive orders to stop travel from certain countries, canceled protections for immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and more.
Kelly thinks certain people who are in the U.S. under temporary protected status, who have been in the U.S. for a “considerable” amount of time, should be put on a path to citizenship and allowed to stay, he said in the NPR interview.
The White House did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.
President Donald Trump, right, speaks to new White House chief of staff John Kelly after he was sworn in, in the Oval Office of the White House, July 31, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general and formerly secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, replaces Reince Priebus. Kelly recently said in an interview that immigrants “don’t have skills.” Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images