Former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly Opposed Troop Deployment to the Border Because They Should Only Fight 'The Away Game'

John Kelly, the former chief of staff, has described his unease at President Donald Trump's deployment of troops at the southern U.S. border to deal with immigrants from Central America.

In an event at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the retired U.S. Marine Corps general outlined his misgivings about the dispatch of thousands of active-duty troops to the border

The White House policy was aimed at helping Homeland Security deal with immigrants on the U.S. border, a mission that had been carried out by National Guard members.

But Kelly, who served as Trump's chief of staff until January 2019, said he argued that U.S. military personnel should not be deployed domestically, telling the audience of cadets in Groton, Connecticut, according to "We don't like it. We see that as someone else's job, meaning law enforcement."

Kelly, who was tasked with getting the Trump administration's immigration policies through Congress, signed a memo authorizing troops along the southwest border to use lethal force.

U.S. President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump at a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and in at the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Kelly has said he was uneasy about deploying troops to the southern U.S. border. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

He said he tried to convince the administration to use the troops to carry out logistical tasks, saying: "I don't think we want to put men and women in U.S. uniform with guns on the Rio Grande."

"We serve the nation selflessly in an apolitical way. The worst thing in my view is to start to put men and women in military uniform against U.S. citizens, whatever the issue is," he added.

The troops were sent to the border after Trump had claimed that there was a caravan of migrants coming to the U.S. by foot.

However Kelly, who served in the Marines for 40 years and was head of U.S. Southern Command before leading the Department of Homeland Security, said that while the U.S. Coast Guard operates inside the U.S., that's not normal for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

"Over the past 200-plus years, we don't typically— if you take the Civil War off the table for a second—we don't typically deploy and operate inside the United States," he said.

He said that troops' job is to fight "the away game [except] when there's a natural disaster in our country, [then] it's all hands on deck," Kelly added.

Kelly said a barrier was required in some places along the border "where there is an urban area on the Mexican side of the border and on the U.S. side of the border, because that's where the vast majority of the crossings take place," adding that Congress, not the Pentagon, should foot the bill.

He also expressed his regret at not being able to get an agreement with Democrats in Congress to ease citizenship for young immigrants in exchange for heightened border security, given that the two parties were "very close" to a deal.

Democrats refused to agree after a court ruled to block the Trump administration's phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

"It's unconscionable that they walked away when we were that close," Kelly said, according to Task and Purpose.