After Casey's tweetstorm, Homeland Security secretary fires back

Senate Supreme Court Democrats
Sen. Bob Casey

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly lashed back Thursday at Sen. Bob Casey, a day after the Pennsylvania Democrat used Twitter to chronicle his daylong, failed effort to stop the deportation of a Honduran woman and her 5-year-old son who had been imprisoned in Berks County.

“If the laws are not good laws, then change them,” Kelly said after a speech on international affairs at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “Don’t call me or Twitter or tweet, or go to the press with outrageous stories about how we do business or why we’re deporting somebody.”

Advocates for the woman, who entered the country without papers and had been pleading for asylum, said she and her child fled Honduras more than a year ago after she witnessed her cousin’s murder by a criminal gang. She said the gang members had threatened to harm her and the boy.

Beginning with the message "Twitter: it's urgent," the typically mild-mannered Casey — a Democrat up for reelection next year — fired off dozens of tweets Wednesday chronicling his efforts to derail the removal. 

At 12:26 p.m., he tweeted that he had spoken with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who promised to look into the matter. “I’ll hold him accountable to do the right thing,” Casey wrote.

Casey’s office said he was trying to speak directly with Kelly when he learned that the mother and child had been put on a plane at 3:40 p.m.

In a direct tweet to President Trump two hours later, Casey wrote, “I am sending you a photo of the 5yr old child, who was deported … despite possibly being eligible for SIJS,” a category known as special immigrant juvenile status. During Trump’s campaign and since taking office, the president has called for stricter deportation efforts.

At 9:02 p.m. Wednesday, Casey tweeted: “This child and his mother deserved better from this Administration. They got the absolute worst.”

On Thursday morning, DHS confirmed that the two were back in Honduras.

After his speech, Kelly downplayed what advocates for the Honduran mother described as a threat to her life by sending her back. He said many Central Americans seeking asylum “are schooled by the traffickers” to parrot the same words about their fears in order to remain in the United States. “So she did that,” he said.

Casey spokeswoman Jacklin Rhoads shot back quickly, telling reporters that “while this family was in crisis” Wednesday, Kelly did not return Casey’s calls seeking intervention on her behalf.

The mother’s legal case to remain in the U.S. had wended its way through the immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently said it would not entertain a further appeal.

DHS maintained that there was no legal basis for her continuing presence in the U.S. and that she was lawfully removed.

On Monday, 13 congressmen and nine senators, led by Casey and including New Jersey's two Democratic senators, Bob Menendez and Cory A. Booker, wrote to Kelly asking him “to focus … on deporting violent felons … rather than expelling young mothers and their children fleeing near-certain death in their home countries.”

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