Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary tells crit­ics to ‘shut up’

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Bristling at the in­tense crit­i­cism his agents are get­ting over en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly told the gripers Tues­day to “shut up,” and de­manded they stop ques­tion­ing the pa­tri­o­tism and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of his work­force.

Mr. Kelly said he’s fed up with calls from law­mak­ers com­plain­ing that his of­fi­cers are un­fairly tar­get­ing air­line pas­sen­gers be­cause of their race or re­li­gion, and with chid­ing from ad­vo­cacy groups that are up­set he’s un­leashed his agents to en­force the laws on the books on ev­ery­thing from mar­i­juana to im­mi­gra­tion.

“If law­mak­ers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to en­force — then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws. Other­wise they should shut up and sup­port the men and women on the front lines,” Mr. Kelly said in a speech Tues­day at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, where he laid out pri­or­i­ties for the sprawl­ing depart­ment he took over three months ago.

Home­land Se­cu­rity has ranked, in re­cent years, at the back of the pack in terms of fed­eral em­ployee morale, and has strug­gled to find a uni­fied mis­sion among its var­i­ous agen­cies, which han­dle ev­ery­thing from im­mi­gra­tion to cy­ber­se­cu­rity, and dis­as­ter re­sponse to track­ing child pornog­ra­phers. The depart­ment also over­sees the Coast Guard and the Se­cret Ser­vice.

But it’s the im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der mis­sions that have drawn the most fo­cus in the early part of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr. Kelly said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “dis­cour­aged” Home­land Se­cu­rity em­ploy­ees from do­ing their jobs, ty­ing fed­eral work­ers’ hands with bu­reau­cracy and “po­lit­i­cally med­dling.” He said he and Pres­i­dent Trump have made a de­ci­sion to free up agents to en­force the laws as writ­ten, and he said he and his depart­ment won’t apol­o­gize for that.

Agents say their morale has al­ready im­proved dra­mat­i­cally un­der Mr. Kelly, and the numbers at the bor­der show il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is al­ready way down.

Ac­tivists, though, say that to achieve those re­sults Mr. Kelly and Mr. Trump have sent agents af­ter rankand-file il­le­gal im­mi­grants who don’t have se­ri­ous crim­i­nal records.

Mr. Kelly’s challenge Tues­day to “shut up” also didn’t sit well with the ad­vo­cates.

“We get it. You’re try­ing to im­prove morale and stand be­hind your agents. But those agents you’re stand­ing be­hind are noth­ing like the Marines you once com­manded,” said Frank Sharry, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Amer­ica’s Voice, who called im­mi­gra­tion agents “no­to­ri­ous for their lack of dis­ci­pline, rogu­ish be­hav­ior, and de­sire to go af­ter the easy prey in or­der to make their statis­tics look good.”

Mr. Sharry said he still holds out hope that Mr. Kelly will “see the light,” re­ject the Trump im­mi­gra­tion agenda and re­turn to Pres­i­dent Obama’s pri­or­i­ties based sys­tem that left the vast ma­jor­ity of il­le­gal im­mi­grants with­out rea­son to fear de­por­ta­tion.

Mr. Kelly has said his agents do set pri­or­i­ties, but said il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion must be dis­cour­aged.

The new sec­re­tary also de­fended his airport of­fi­cers, say­ing he’s been sur­prised by the myr­iad of calls he’s fielded from mem­bers of Congress com­plain­ing that they’d heard some­one had been de­tained at an airport be­cause of their re­li­gion or skin color.

“It’s ab­so­lutely not true. We do it for a rea­son. You should ap­plaud those men and women for do­ing what they do,” he said.

“Be­lieve me, it’s not be­cause of their skin color, it’s not be­cause of the part of the coun­try they come from, it’s not be­cause of their re­li­gion,” he said. “There’s al­ways, al­ways, al­ways more to the story.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In a speech on Tues­day at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly had some choice words for his crit­ics. Mr. Kelly said he’s fed up with calls from law­mak­ers com­plain­ing about his of­fi­cers.

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