Homeland security secretary materializes Trump’s tough approach on immigration, national security
Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly is in charge of pitching Trump’s most contentious policies to the public and implementing sometimes controversial measures.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, was confirmed to the secretary position on the same day Trump was sworn is as the 45th president of the United States. All Republican senators, with the exception of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R–Ala.), who was nominated for attorney general, and some Democratic and independent senators voted in favor of his confirmation. Eleven Democrats — including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) — voted against the confirmation.
As the leader responsible for a collection of agencies controlling borders and immigration, Kelly has supported approaches cracking down on illegal immigration and emboldening national security measures. At the same time, Kelly’s approach could occasionally diverge, depending on how Trump approaches those issues.
The Department of Homeland Security, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is the federal government office responsible for protecting national security from threats. It is also in charge of handling immigration and border security at airports and by coasts and humanitarian disaster relief through its government agency branches. These include the Customs and Border Protection, the Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation and Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Secret Service.
These government agencies have dominated the news cycle constantly over the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. When Trump signed an executive order restricting entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa, chaos erupted across airports nationwide as immigration officers detained travelers from those countries. After a series of legal battles and protests ensued, Trump proposed a revised travel ban on March 6 , which was revoked by a district court judge in Hawaii nine days later.
Kelly originally defended the travel ban, according to CNN. Later, Kelly appeared to distance himself from Trump. He admitted he was responsible for the tumultuous rollout of the restrictions in a congressional testimony in early February, but he was not part of crafting the ban, according to The Chicago Tribune. Kelly did not see the plan until the week it was implemented and had not been informed that the executive order would be enforced until the day before Trump signed it, per the Tribune.
“The thinking was to get it out quick so that people trying to come here to harm us could not take advantage of a period of time to jump on an airplane,” he said during the testimony, according to The Chicago Tribune.
But Kelly can be tough on immigration. He previously told CNN that his agency is “considering” separating undocumented children from parents at the border.
The homeland security department is also seeking to augment detention facilities for immigrant families seeking asylum in the United States by as much as 500 percent, MSNBC reported in early March.
Such growth, however, may severely burden the agency, raising questions on effectiveness of proper immigration control. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is unable to “sufficiently (track) thousands of undocumented immigrants who are awaiting possible deportation but aren’t currently in detention.”
ICE agents have also ramped up their raids, arresting undocumented immigrants both with and without criminal histories across the country. During one week in February, “hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least a half-dozen states” were arrested as a result of “a series of raids,” according to The Washington Post.
Earlier in April, there were multiple media reports of Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, being deported to Mexico despite his status. Also known as DACA, the program shields undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. who entered the country as minors from deportation.
On CNN on Sunday morning, however, Kelly assured DACA beneficiaries, better known as DREAMers, that they would not face deportation and stressed law enforcement agencies are going after criminals who are in the country illegally. His remark echoes what Trump said during an interview with The Associated Press, assuring young immigrants who were brought to the country and do not have legal status they can “rest easy.”
“If you are simply here illegally, we don’t really have the time to go after you,” Kelly said during the interview with CNN.
Exemplifying Trump’s support for bolstering national security, his budget blueprint unveiled in March shows the agency would receive $44.1 billion for the fiscal year 2018, a 6.8 percent increase. The budget proposal also incorporates $2.6 billion for constructing a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, Trump’s long-time talking point to “make America safe again.”
“I think it goes without saying that the President has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall,” Kelly said in the CNN interview from Sunday. “So I would suspect he’ll do the right thing for sure.”
Published on April 24, 2017 at 9:59 pm