John Kelly proposed separating children from their parents to deter illegal immigration last year, and now the Trump administration can't get its story straight

  • An interview from 2017 featuring then-Homeland Security chief John Kelly has resurfaced in which he suggested the separation of families could help deter illegal immigration.
  • The White House is now being blasted over the separation of migrant families.
  • On Monday, current Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen said the children who've been detained are "very well taken care of."

As the Trump administration offers inconsistent justifications for the policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border, an interview from 2017 featuring then-Homeland Security chief John Kelly has resurfaced in which he suggested the separation of families could help deter illegal immigration. 

When asked by CNN in March 2017 if the Trump administration was seriously considering separating migrant children from their parents, Kelly said, "Yes, I am considering in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. ... I am considering exactly that."

"I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States," Kelly added.

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Migrants detained near US-Mexico border
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Migrants detained near US-Mexico border
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A U.S. Border Patrol agent takes a group of Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents take Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks for groups of asylum seekers crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents take Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take groups of them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents take a group of Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A Honduran mother holds her two-year-old as U.S. Border Patrol as agents review their papers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran stands with her mother after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained before being sent to a Border Patrol processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A U.S. Border Patrol spotlight shines on a terrified mother and son from Honduras as they are found in the dark near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and had become lost in the woods. They were then detained by Border Patrol agents and then sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain a group of Central American asylum seekers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The group of women and children had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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Kelly, now White House chief of staff, also said any detained migrant children would be "well cared for" as "we deal with their parents."

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned the administration was enforcing a "zero tolerance" policy on immigration. 

"If you cross the border unlawfully ... we will prosecute you," Sessions said at the time. "If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally." 

Last week, it was reported that Homeland Security records show roughly 2,000 migrant children have been separated from their parents or guardians in a recent six-week period. 

The White House is now being blasted from all sides over the separation of families, including by prominent Republicans. 

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Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children
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Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
An occupant at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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On Monday, former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush tweeted, "Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. [Trump] should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers."

Amid the public outcry, the Trump administration has attempted to blame Democrats for what's occurring, despite no substantial evidence to support this claim, and even went as far to deny the policy of separating migrant children from their parents exists. 

On Sunday, Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." But less than 24 hours later, she defended the administration over its immigration policies and said the children who've been detained are being "well taken care of."

"It is important to know that these minors are very well taken care of. Don't believe the press," Nielsen said in an address to the National Sheriffs Association.

"We have to do our job; we will not apologize doing for our job. ... This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you," she added.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, on Monday told "CBS This Morning" the separation of families at the border amounts to a "form of child abuse."

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SEE ALSO: Homeland Security chief says migrant children are 'well taken care of' a day after denying it was policy to detain them

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