Trump taps Kelly to en­force U.S. bor­ders

Im­mi­gra­tion hawks buoyed by Home­land Se­cu­rity choice


Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has picked re­tired Ma­rine Gen. John F. Kelly to be the new sec­re­tary at the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, sources said Wed­nes­day, se­lect­ing a ca­reer mil­i­tary man who, as head of Amer­i­can forces in Latin Amer­ica, re­peat­edly warned of the dan­gers of drug le­gal­iza­tion and the por­ous south­west­ern border.

Gen. Kelly caught the eye of Mr. Trump’s top ad­vis­ers with a force­ful ap­pear­ances be­fore Congress in 2014 and 2015, where he said he was shocked at how eas­ily smug­glers were able to pen­e­trate the U.S.-Mex­ico border, and said it rep­re­sented a ma­jor hole in na­tional se­cu­rity.

“Drugs, hu­man be­ings, ter­ror­ists — any­thing can ride on this net­work,” he said in tes­ti­mony that dis­pleased Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion loy­al­ists but en­deared him to Repub­li­cans.

Im­mi­grant rights groups fret­ted over the pick, say­ing there were too many holes in the gen­eral’s back­ground on home­land se­cu­rity. And con­gres­sional Democrats said they feared a mil­i­ta­riza­tion of U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

But those who want to see stricter en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws said the gen­eral’s se­lec­tion was en­cour­ag­ing

be­cause it sug­gests a strong hand at the helm of a de­part­ment that’s been sub­jected to in­tense po­lit­i­cal pres­sures over the years.

An of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of the nom­i­na­tion is ex­pected next week, as Mr. Trump fills out the na­tional se­cu­rity po­si­tions in his team.

Gen. Kelly was the longest­serv­ing gen­eral at the time he re­tired in 2015, af­ter three years as the head of Florida-based U.S. South­ern Com­mand. His mis­sions there in­cluded the border with Mex­ico, coun­ternar­cotics traf­fick­ing and coun­terin­sur­gency, and the port­fo­lio al­lowed him reg­u­lar meet­ings with Cen­tral and South Amer­i­can lead­ers.

As South Com boss, he ac­tively pro­moted the Al­liance for Pros­per­ity to pro­mote eco­nomic change and counter smug­gling poli­cies in the North­ern Tri­an­gle coun­tries of Hon­duras, Gu­atemala and El Sal­vador, which ac­count for the new surge in il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to the U.S. over the last few years.

Be­fore South Com, he led troops in the Iraq War. He’s also a Gold Star fa­ther: His son, Ma­rine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice in Hel­mand prov­ince, Afghanistan, in 2010.

Gen. Kelly won praise Wed­nes­day for his man­age­ment skills, which will be tested by the mas­sive De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, cre­ated in 2003 as a mish­mash of agen­cies and mis­sions.

The de­part­ment strug­gles with em­ployee morale, and has placed at the bot­tom of the an­nual sur­vey of fed­eral work­places in re­cent years.

Gen. Kelly’s big­gest chal­lenges, how­ever, will come with the three im­mi­gra­tion agen­cies: Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion, Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices and Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

Dur­ing the cam­paign Mr. Trump made fight­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion a ma­jor part of his cam­paign, vow­ing to de­port il­le­gal im­mi­grants and to build a wall on the south­west border — and to make Mex­ico pay for it.

He has since soft­ened stances, say­ing his tar­gets for de­por­ta­tion will be crim­i­nals — the same pol­icy the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has — and say­ing only some parts of the border will need a wall.

The gen­eral’s views on the border are known, but his stances on sanc­tu­ary cities that pro­tect il­le­gal im­mi­grants, on how to treat busi­nesses that hire unau­tho­rized work­ers and on Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 de­por­ta­tion amnesty for so­called Dream­ers are all un­known.

“He seems to have a blank slate on in­te­rior en­force­ment,” said Ali Noorani, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum. “Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of lim­ited law en­force­ment re­sources re­mains crit­i­cal. Pur­su­ing oth­er­wise law-abid­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants ham­pers the abil­ity of fed­eral and lo­cal law en­force­ment to keep the na­tion safe. How would he strike that bal­ance?

All sides said the Kelly pick raises the stakes for other key jobs in the de­part­ment, in­clud­ing the heads of the three im­mi­gra­tion agen­cies.

“He will need peo­ple around him who un­der­stand the whole im­mi­gra­tion is­sue, and we look for­ward to work­ing with him to move Trump’s agenda for­ward — to en­force our im­mi­gra­tion laws, to restructure le­gal im­mi­gra­tion so that it ben­e­fits Amer­i­can work­ers and, of course, to se­cure the border,” said Rose­mary Jenks, govern­ment re­la­tions man­ager at Num­bers USA, which lob­bies for stricter im­mi­gra­tion lim­its.

Per­haps the most press­ing is­sue for Home­land Se­cu­rity is a re­newed surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica. The last year has set records for the num­ber of fam­ily mem­bers jump­ing the border, while the num­ber of un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren once again ap­proached the record set in 2014.

Gen. Kelly, in his tes­ti­mony to Congress, said they are flee­ing vi­o­lence and strug­gling coun­tries back home, and placed much of the blame for so­cial fail­ures there on the de­mand for drugs in the U.S.

“This is a can­cer that we’ve got to get af­ter,” he said. “What it’s do­ing to these other coun­tries that sim­ply can’t deal with the car­tels — the vi­o­lence and the prof­its that come out of our coun­try and buy off en­tire coun­tries.”

He also mar­veled at the ef­fi­ciency and suc­cess of the car­tels, which he said could be used to smug­gle not only drugs or poor fam­i­lies seek­ing a home here, but also ter­ror­ists or weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

Over the last two years, The Wash­ing­ton Times has re­ported on two smug­gling op­er­a­tions that had suc­cess­fully de­liv­ered ter­ror­ism sus­pects into the U.S. In one case mem­bers of a des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion in Turkey man­aged to get into Texas, while in the other case, a man known to coun­tert­er­ror­ism au­thor­i­ties was shep­herded by a Brazil­ian smug­gling net­work into the U.S.

Gen. Kelly would be the sec­ond Ma­rine nom­i­nated to the Cabi­net, fol­low­ing the pick of re­tired Gen. James N. Mat­tis to be de­fense sec­re­tary. Both men have rep­u­ta­tions for speak­ing their minds.

In ad­di­tion, the cur­rent chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a Ma­rine, Gen. Joseph Dun­ford.


DE­FENDER: Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has se­lected re­tired Ma­rine Gen. John F. Kelly for sec­re­tary at the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.


Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump is tap­ping another four-star mil­i­tary of­fi­cer in the form of re­tired Ma­rine Gen. John F. Kelly for sec­re­tary of the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

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