US Homeland Security chief John Kelly speaks during a joint press conference with Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong (out of frame), at the Foreign Ministry building in Mexico City on February 23, 2017
Mexico City (AFP) - US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly promised Thursday "no mass deportations" or military force against immigrants in the United States despite a crackdown on those in the country illegally.
"There will be no, repeat no mass deportations", Kelly told a news conference in Mexico City after meeting with Mexican ministers. "There will be no use of military force for immigration operations."
The meetings aimed to calm diplomatic tensions with Mexico, which has been targeted by President Donald Trump with a hard line on trade and immigration.
Speaking hours earlier Thursday at the White House Trump made comments that appeared to contradict the message of his envoy to Mexico, describing the stepped-up deportation drive as "a military operation."
"We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before," Trump said.
Trump has outraged Mexico by vowing to build a wall along the border to keep out migrants from Latin America, whom he branded rapists and criminals during his presidential campaign.
Kelly on Tuesday issued new orders to begin arresting and deporting illegal immigrants, many of them Mexicans.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also in Mexico City where he met with his Mexican counterpart, Luis Videgaray.
Tillerson said the two sides "reiterated our joint commitment to maintaining law and order along our shared border by stopping potential terrorists and dismantling the transnational criminal networks moving drugs and people into the United States."
But he agreed that cooperation on border security had to work both ways.
"We underscored the importance of stopping the illegal firearms and bulk cash that is originating in the United States and flowing into Mexico," he said.
"There's no mistaking that the rule of law matters along both sides of the border."
US officials said the trip was aimed at affirming positive relations with Mexico.
But Trump said he was determined to reduce the $70 billion US trade deficit with Mexico even at the risk of harming ties.
"We're going to have a good relationship with Mexico, I hope. And if we don't, we don't," he said Thursday.