The Administration

Trump’s pick Gen. John Kelly can sort out Obama’s mess at DHS

John Kelly
John Kelly

The choice of Retired General John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a clear indication that, under the incoming Trump administration, homeland security will actually be the primary focus of the department.

{mosads}Gen. Kelly’s experience as commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), as well as his combat role in the Middle East — the cradle of global jihad — provides him with firsthand knowledge of the security threats that the nation faces.


For the past eight years, the Obama administration recklessly sacrificed the department’s mission of protecting the security of Americans at home to the president’s political priorities, which included maximizing the number of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers entering the United States.

Gen. Kelly will be faced with the immediate challenge of restoring public confidence in the department’s mission and the confidence of demoralized agencies within DHS charged with protecting the security of the American people.

As former commander of SOUTHCOM, Kelly has dealt with security challenges that are exacerbated by our nation’s porous borders and by political policies that have served as an inducement for people to cross our borders illegally.

As secretary of DHS, his role will be to oversee the construction of the border security infrastructure President-elect Trump has promised to put in place, and to eliminate policies that have triggered a surge of illegal immigration across the southern border. Truly securing our borders requires that we do both.

The most immediate step Kelly and the new administration can take to secure the southern border is to terminate policies that have sent a clear message to would-be illegal aliens that entering the United States illegally will be rewarded.

The border surge that has plagued the southern border for the past few years is a direct result of the Obama administration’s catch-and-release policy and its self-declared priority enforcement policy that has placed about 87 percent of all illegal aliens off-limits to enforcement.

Under catch-and-release, nearly all illegal entrants are quickly released from custody, granted work authorization, and issued notices to appear (NTAs) for immigration hearings that may be years in the future, and which few intend to honor.

Further exacerbating the border crisis is President Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has sent a clear message that arriving in the United States as an unaccompanied minor, or as a family in the company of a minor, all but guarantees admission and a future claim to remain here.

These dangerous policies were put in place by Kelly’s predecessor and can be reversed the moment he takes the reins of DHS.

The vast majority of people who have surged across the border pose no national security threat (although they do pose a significant fiscal burden to the nation). The danger is that the surge itself provides cover for people who do threaten the security of the nation.

The volume of illegal border crossers increases the likelihood that dangerous individuals enter the country under catch-and-release. It also forces DHS to divert manpower and other resources away from guarding the border.

As Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol testified before a Senate committee on Nov. 30, the border surge triggered by Obama administration policies has turned his agents into “professional childcare providers” who spend their time “ordering baby powder and baby wipes,” instead of focusing their attention on stopping terrorists and criminals from entering the country.

As secretary of DHS, Kelly will not only be charged with preventing people from entering the country illegally, but also with ensuring that the people who are legally admitted are properly vetted.

Despite public testimony by top national security officials that we do not have the capacity to screen out security threats from collapsed societies like Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, the Obama administration has simultaneously increased the intake of refugees from that part of the world and expedited the normal 18-24 month vetting process to just three months.

In addition to dramatic increases in refugee admissions, the number of immigrants from countries known to harbor terrorists has steadily risen in recent years.

Much like the surge of people crossing the border illegally, most of those admitted from problematic countries in the Middle East and Africa are not security threats, but the sheer volume of admissions makes it impossible to do the sort of thorough background checks necessary to flag those who are dangerous.

As a combat veteran, Kelly has intimate knowledge of the enemy’s reliance on asymmetrical warfare to inflict harm on the United States and other Western nations.  More than half of all U.S. combat deaths in the Middle East were inflicted by these sorts of tactics and ISIS and other terror networks have vowed to use the refugee process and global migration to carry out similar attacks in the West.

There is a reason why immigration and immigration enforcement was placed under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.

After the attacks of 9/11, the nation recognized that who we admit to this country and how our immigration laws are enforced are critical to the security of the nation. That mission was largely ignored under President George W. Bush and actively undermined under President Obama.

President-elect Trump’s own policy positions and his appointment of Gen. Kelly to run DHS is an indication that immigration enforcement will be taken seriously in the new administration. For all his accumulated expertise in national security, Kelly will need to surround himself with other experts in immigration policy, like Kris Kobach, to fill key posts within DHS.

Deterring large-scale illegal immigration by eliminating the incentives for people to violate our laws, coupled with sensible enforcement and proper screening of those who do enter the country must DHS’s priority in the coming years.

The incoming leadership of DHS provides hope that finally America’s immigration laws will be enforced.

Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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