Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly maintained Tuesday that President Trump's executive order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. does not specifically target Muslims. "This is not, I repeat, not a ban on Muslims," Kelly said while speaking at a news conference.
Kelly, who was reportedly not fully briefed on Trump's executive order until the president was already signing it, also claimed that "we did know the [executive order] was coming" and denied that he'd learned about it "on an airplane," as The New York Times reported. "It wasn't a surprise it was coming, and then we implemented it," Kelly said. But the homeland security secretary was evasive about when exactly he heard about the order, and credited his knowledge of it on statements Trump made during his presidential campaign. Several Customs and Border protection officers have also said there was confusion over how to carry out Trump's order, with one official telling The New York Times they were "flying by the seat of their pants."
Going forward, Kelly vowed to carry out the executive order "humanely" and "in accordance with the law." "We cannot gamble with American lives. I will not gamble with American lives," Kelly said. "These orders are a matter of national security."
The libertarian Cato Institute has reported that people from the seven nations Trump has placed bans on "have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and the end of 2015."