Trump's Homeland Security chief reportedly had contentious meetings with immigrant leaders in Michigan



President Donald Trump's Homeland Security chief, John Kelly, reportedly had tense exchanges with Arab and Latino leaders during meetings in Michigan this week.

During a meeting on Monday with Arab-American and Muslim representatives in Dearborn, just outside Detroit, Nabih Ayad, a civil-rights leader and lawyer who founded Dearborn's Arab American Civil Rights League, told the Detroit Free Press that he pressed Kelly about executive orders targeting six Muslim-majority nations.

Ayad also asked the DHS chief about screenings at US ports of entry, requesting Kelly's department keep logs of those questioned to see if one group was targeted disproportionately.

"He stood up and walked away almost," Ayad told the Free Press. "He said, 'I'm leaving unless you decide to stop your questions and have someone else ask a question.' ... He actually got out his seat."

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Egyptian-American community activist Rana Abdelhamid (L) demonstrates a move during a self-defense workshop designed for Muslim women in Washington, DC, March 4, 2016 in this handout photo provided by Rawan Elbaba. Picture taken March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Rawan Elbaba/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Young Muslims protest U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before being escorted out during a campaign rally in the Kansas Republican Caucus at the Century II Convention and Entertainment Center in Wichita, Kansas March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Muslim man prays while people shout slogans against U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside of his office in Manhattan, New York, December 20, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Janice Tufte of Seattle, a Muslim, participates in a pro-refugee protest organized by Americans for Refugees and Immigrants in Seattle, Washington November 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Redmond
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - MARCH 09: A poster, reads 'Muslims! They invented coffee, the toothbrush, and algebra... Oh wait, sorry about the algebra. That's a year of class you'll never get back', is being displayed at a subway station under 77th Street, New York, NY, USA on March 09, 2016. Varied posters giving right information about Muslims and inform people against Islamophobia, prepared by Muslim comedians Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, are being displayed at 144 subway stations of subway system in New York City within a project with 20,000 US Dollars cost. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/01/18: Bay Ridge residents march along Ft Hamilton Parkway in support of the Muslim community. Hundreds of Brooklyn residents gathered in Bay Ridge at the site of an alleged bias attack for a march entitled 'Muslims Our Neighbors' in support of Bay Ridge's Islamic community. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MIDTOWN MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/12/20: Several hundred demonstrators rallied outside of Trump Tower at East 56th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to condemn Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's position on immigration rights; after rallying for nearly two hours, demonstrators marched to Herald Square. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A group of Muslims pray before a rally in front of Trump Tower December 20, 2015 in New York. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump proposed a call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10, 2015: Fire and hazmat crews arrive on the scene to investigate a suspicious letter delivered to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on December 10, 2015 in Washington, D.C. CAIR is the largest non-profit Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, with offices two blocks from the U.S. Capitol building. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/12/09: Hand-lettered Love Your Muslim Neighbor sign held aloft. City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito led an interfaith rally of political leaders and clergy on the steps of city hall to denounce Republican candidate Donald Trump's call to ban Muslim entry into the US. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, Dec. 6, 2015-- Local Muslim residents attend a gathering to mourn victims who were killed in the recent deadly shooting incident in Islamic Community Center in Loma Linda, San Bernardino, California, United States, Dec. 6, 2015. (Xinhua/Yang Lei via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC DECEMBER 2: Ibrahim Hashi, a Muslim veteran of the United States military, is pictured in his American University dorm room, where a Marine Corp flag hangs on his living room wall, on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, in Washington, DC. Since leaving the Marines as a corporal in 2011, Hashi has heard more anti-Muslim rhetoric than ever. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Later in the meeting, Kelly said that "generally" every foreign and American citizen arriving in the US moves "straight through the process." But, he added, "A very tiny number are set aside for additional screening that's not based on religion or color or politics, and I reject anyone that makes that claim."

A Homeland Security spokesman also told the Free Press in a statement that, "One participant in a meeting ... incessantly pressed the Secretary, incorrectly alleging that DHS officials engage in targeting and racial profiling of Arabs and religious profiling of Muslims."

"Secretary Kelly reiterated that CBP and ICE officers carry out their duties professionally, humanely and in accordance with the law, noting that they do not target individuals based on race, religion or political views. When the participant insisted on ... repeating the same erroneous allegations, Secretary Kelly made his frustration known," the statement said.

During another meeting that morning with Latino and Iraqi Christian leaders, Kelly was asked about the conduct of DHS employees, which includes Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He defended their work, saying, "I'm not going to put my men down."

Kelly sought to allay concerns about detainees being transferred to distant detention centers, telling attendees that those taken into custody would be sent to facilities where space was available.

The Homeland Security secretary also told the meeting that his agents were only seeking undocumented immigrants with criminal records or "another negative factor," according to Susan Reed, a Michigan immigrant-rights advocate.

Reed told the Free Press that her observations showed something different, with, on many occasions, people conducting the "basic business of their lives" apprehended and placed in deportation processes by DHS agents.

In recent weeks, Trump's immigration crackdown has ensnared a number of people with no criminal record other than their illegal entry to the US, as well as others known to be advocates for undocumented immigrants.

Trump has praised Kelly for his work addressing immigration (though the decline in immigrant arrivals at the southern border cannot yet be considered permanent or attributable to this administration).

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A gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence is seen outside Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Men talk on a street in the town of Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol officer stands at a border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Buildings in Nogales, Mexico (R) are separated by a border fence from Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
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Residential homes are seen next to the fence that borders Mexico, in Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians wait to cross the street in Calexico, California, Unites States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The town of Bisbee is seen in Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians make their way into the the United States from Mexico at the pedestrian border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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An old refurbished gas station is seen in Lowell, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A man rides a tricycle past a grocery store in a town that borders Mexico, in San Luis Butter, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol truck drives past the fence that marks the border between U.S. and Mexico, in Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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A fence separates the border towns of Nogales, Mexico (R) and Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Reaction at home and abroad to Kelly and the immigration initiatives he has spearheaded under Trump has been less laudatory.

Democratic lawmakers became frustrated with ICE and Republican leadership in February, after the agency canceled a meeting with them on February 14, and then saw Latino Democratic members excluded from the list of attendees for a bipartisan follow-up meeting later that week.

Democrats and a GOP aide told The Huffington Post that ICE had picked the guest list for the second meeting, while ICE said the speaker's office had done it.

Democrats expressed frustration with Kelly himself after a March meeting where they said he hadn't provided substantive responses and appeared"belligerent," "tense" and "rude," evincing a "pass the buck" attitude, according to Politico.

A DHS spokesman said Kelly tried to answer as many questions as he could, though Democrats said Kelly did not have responses to dozens of letters they had sent DHS.

Many in the US have come to see Kelly's actions as DHS secretary at odds with many of his stated positions prior to taking the job. South of the border, Kelly has become painted with the ire many Mexicans feel toward Trump.

"They don't care for John Kelly, because ... they look at him as not having the moral courage to stand up to Trump," Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration who maintains contact with Mexican law-enforcement officials, told Business Insider earlier this month.

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