Appearing in a confirmation hearing yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary nominee Gen. John Kelly called for a multifaceted approach to securing the border and criticized the Obama Administration for giving “a pass” to most illegal aliens. He said that the law would "guide” his decisions if confirmed, and that he would “rapidly” process illegal aliens for return to the countries.
On border security, Gen. Kelly said "A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job…Certainly, it has to be a layered approach" with defenses that include patrols, sensors and drones. "Defense starts 1,500 miles south of the Rio Grande," he said, and recommended a security plan that also addresses the flow of drugs and violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Kelly said deportation of illegal aliens will have a major effect on reducing illegal border crossings.
“I believe that rapidly processing and returning aliens to their countries of origin in significant numbers will help to immediately and significantly reduce the number of individuals and groups trying to enter the country illegally.”
In a written statement supporting his testimony, he also said "The message I heard [through his work at Southern Command] was always the same: 'If you do not start sending them back to their country of origin quickly and in large numbers they will never stop making the trek north.'”
Kelly believes the Secretary’s job is to enforce the laws on the books.
“My understanding is that under current policies, virtually all illegal aliens get a pass until they commit, and are convicted of, a violent crime,” Kelly said. "The Congress has passed longstanding laws making foreign nationals without legal status removable from the United States, and it is proper for DHS, like any other law enforcement organization, to faithfully execute the laws on the books."
Kelly did not commit to building the new deportation force President-elect Trump mentioned early in the campaign. "At this juncture, I have given no thought to the topic of a deportation force. As I understand it, we have -- generally speaking -- appropriate laws and regulations in place. I do not have a plan at this time, other than enforcement of the law."
Asked about illegal aliens under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Kelly said "There's a big spectrum of people who need to be dealt with…Those categories would be prioritized. I would guess this category might not be the highest priority for removal…I believe that there is a role for traditional prosecutorial discretion, but we cannot refuse to enforce the laws on the books.”
Kelly did not commit to penalizing sanctuary cities, but said,
“If confirmed I don't think I have the authority to pick and choose which laws need to be followed. I understand why they’re protective, some of those local leaders, but I do think the law is the law.”
On the topic of visa overstays, Kelly said "we don't have a particularly good system to alert the day after someone's visa expires and it's not until someone is caught doing something wrong [that they’re exposed]. He said it may be appropriate to "send someone to their house ... and ask them why they haven't departed."
Asked about "extreme vetting" for refugees and certain legal immigrants, Kelly said “One of the problems…is they come from countries that are obviously dysfunctional…[W]hen you're taking in people [from countries] without a lot of the law enforcement bureaucracy, you can't guarantee 100 percent, and… you really can't vet them very well. I guess you do the best you can.”
Updated: Mon, Apr 10th 2017 @ 1:55pm EDT