"Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They're not criminals. They're not MS13," Kelly told NPR in an interview released late Thursday, referring to the criminal gang. "But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society."
The former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said the undocumented immigrants don't speak English and are "overwhelmingly rural people" from countries where "fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm."
"They don't integrate well; they don't have skills. They're not bad people. They're coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws," he went on to say.
According to NPR, Kelly supports DHS' decision in ending temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan, and more recently Honduras
However, he floated the idea of finding a path to citizenship for the more than 425,000 immigrants, many of whom have lived in the US legally for decades under TPS.
"I think we should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time and find a way for them to be on a path to citizenship," Kelly said.
Kelly, who is seen inside the Trump administration as a "hardass" on immigration
, was previously accused of degrading undocumented immigrants in February,when he suggested
that some were "too afraid" or "too lazy" to sign up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
"There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the President sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million," he said on Capitol Hill after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to audio posted by The Washington Post
"The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up," Kelly added.
After another meeting on Capitol Hill, Kelly later said some people who were DACA eligible but didn't sign up had reasons but most probably "needed to get off the couch."