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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Trump Picks GENERAL KELLY to Head DHS
Stephen Dinan, Rowan Scarborough
President-elect Donald Trump will offer the Homeland Security secretary’s job to retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, picking a man who has repeatedly warned of the dangers of a porous southwestern border, according to multiple press reports.
After watching the surge of illegal immigrants in 2014, Gen. Kelly, who ran the military’s Southern Command, told Congress he was shocked at how easily smugglers were able to penetrate the border, and said it represented a threat to security.
That 2015 testimony caught the eye of Mr. Trump’s close advisers.
The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump has not officially offered the job to Gen. Kelly, who is traveling overseas. The position will be announced next week.
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.
Picking Gen. Kelly could signal Mr. Trump intends to continue that trajectory, treating the southwest border problem as one of national security rather than as an immigration issue.
In testimony to Congress Gen. Kelly pointed to those migrants from countries with connections to terrorism, who he said were crossing the border with the aid of smuggling networks. He specifically mentioned Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization, which he said was tied in with the smugglers.
As head of Southern Command, which covers Central America and South America, Gen. Kelly’s duties included detecting the flow of drugs from Latin America. He said he was stunned by the efficiency and success of the smugglers.
“Drugs, human beings, terrorists — anything can ride on this network,” he said in 2014. A year later, in subsequent testimony, he said there weren’t yet indications that terrorists were using the networks, but the danger was “extremely serious.”
Over the last two years, some of those indications have arisen. The Washington Times reported on two different smuggling operations that siphoned young men from the Middle East 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 warned of the danger of weapons of mass destruction also finding a way across, enabled by smugglers.
He said the U.S. border can be secured with more willpower and more resources.
“No one knows that border and the key players better than Kelly,” a supporter of the general told The Washington Times last month.
Immigration is already proving to be one of the thorniest issues for Mr. Trump as he prepares to take office.
Illegal immigrants are rallying to demand protection from deportation, and have asked for a pardon from President Obama. High-powered Democrats also vowed to fight any moves to expand deportation.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose city helped pioneer the sanctuary movement that refuses cooperation with federal immigration agents, lobbied Mr. Trump personally Wednesday.
“Chicago was a sanctuary city for my grandfather. His grandson today is the mayor of this city, which is a testament to the strength of the values and ideals of America,” Mr. Emanuel told reporters after meeting with Mr. Trump.
As chief of Homeland Security, Gen. Kelly would oversee three immigration agencies, but would also have purview over the Secret Service, cybersecurity and the government’s response force to natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Gen. Kelly had good experience running a large organization, which would help at the sprawling department. But Mr. Thompson said Gen. Kelly was “alarmist” in his warnings on border security.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security must be a measured, unbiased voice with our nation’s national security as top priority,” he said in a statement.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, though, dubbed Gen. Kelly a “strong” pick.
“General Kelly has spent his life defending our nation and fully understands the critical role border security plays in protecting the country from the threats of terrorism, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and drugs,” said FAIR President Dan Stein.
Gen. Kelly would be the second Marine nominated to the Cabinet, following the pick of retired Gen. James Mattis to be Defense secretary. Both men have reputations for speaking their minds.