Just hours after President Donald Trump described his new deportation policies as “a military operation,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly criticized the media for using that term and insisted there will be no "mass deportations."
Kelly, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is in Mexico City for a brief trip, meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto and his Cabinet amid heightened tensions over the U.S.’s new immigration policies, heated rhetoric and insistence that Mexico will pay for a border wall.
“No, repeat, no, use of military force in immigration operations. None,” said Kelly in a brief press statement alongside his Mexican counterpart. “At least half of you try to get that right because it continually comes up in the reporting.”
Earlier in the day, President Trump told reporters his administration was getting “gang members,” “drug lords,” and “really bad dudes out of this country” at a roundtable with manufacturing CEOs.
“We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before. And they're the bad ones. And it's a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before, and all of the things -- much of that is people that are here illegally,” he said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer later clarified that Trump was using the description "as an adjective" and that the process is "happening with precision" and in a "streamlined manner."
Kelly also announced that there will be “no, repeat, no mass deportations” despite concerns that new DHS memos opened the door for law enforcement to deport anyone without legal documentation that they encounter.
“Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States,” he said.
“All of this will be done, as it always is, in close coordination with the government of Mexico,” he added.
Before Kelly spoke, Tillerson made a rare public statement, saying he and Kelly had productive meetings with their Mexican counterparts and addressed those differences between the two neighbors.
“During the course of our meetings, we discussed the breadth of challenges and opportunities in the U.S.-Mexico relationship,” he said, standing alongside Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray. “In our meetings, we jointly acknowledged that in a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences."
He added: "We listened closely and carefully to each other as we respectfully and patiently raised our respective concerns.”
The amicable tone was shared by Videgaray, but he also made a point to highlight those differences.
“In a moment where we have notorious differences, the best way to solve them is through dialogue,” he said.
Tillerson has been notably quiet since he was sworn in last month. The former ExxonMobil CEO has not done an interview or held a press conference, and the department has not resumed its daily briefing for reporters -- a fixture at Foggy Bottom that goes back to the Eisenhower administration -- since he took office.
The silence has generated headlines that Tillerson and the State Department have been sidelined by a White House that has centralized power, especially on foreign policy decisions. Tillerson did not participate in White House meetings with foreign leaders last week. And top posts at the State Department have still not been filled over a month after inauguration, including the secretary's deputy.
The trip abroad is the first for Kelly and the second for Tillerson, although it is his first one-on-one visit to a foreign country -- a sign of how important the relationship is, according to the State Department.
ABC News' Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.