Yesterday, DHS Secretary John Kelly testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the department’s FY18 budget and addressed concerns over increasing foreign worker visas, sanctuary cities, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In his remarks, Secretary Kelly made it clear that the Trump Administration would put American workers first and that DHS will enforce federal immigration laws.

During the hearing, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) asked Kelly about approving additional foreign worker visas for seasonal and agricultural workers. In the omnibus spending bill, DHS was given authority to increase the number of H-2B workers by an additional 70,000 visas from the 66,000 cap.

Kelly responded that when it comes to H-2A workers, “I know we already have large numbers [of contract workers] that come in and have been coming in over the years…”

He also addressed H-2B visas saying, “…but looking on the B side, H-2B, … in the current administration, this is all about American jobs versus people that come in and do the work.”

This differs from his May 25th response when he said he was considering approving about half of the additional visas. It also comes after Sec. Kelly received letters from NumbersUSA and a bipartisan group of Senators asking him not to increase the number of visas.

Roy Beck, President and Founder of NumbersUSA issued the following statement to the press in response to Sec. Kelly's comments:

NumbersUSA is encouraged by Secretary Kelly's statements to the Senate indicating his intention to follow through on President Trump's promise to put American workers first by declining to increase the cap on H-2B workers. Americans, particularly those without college degrees, continue to have low labor-participation rates that leave them outside the benefits of any economic recovery. Wages in lower-skilled occupations -- like those with H-2B workers -- are stagnant, demonstrating the lie behind the myth of a labor shortage. Finally, the voices of American workers have risen above the special interests clamoring for cheap foreign labor."

-- NumbersUSA President & Founder Roy Beck

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) criticized DHS and the Dept. of Justice for threatening to take away federal grants from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE detainers. Kelly responded that he believes, “federal law is federal law and state law is state law.” He also mentioned that his department will work with any, “police and sheriff department in the country to the degree that they agree and are comfortable with.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) asked about DHS’ intentions for the Temporary Protected Status program. The TPS program grants temporary lawful status to foreign citizens from countries where conditions may temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely. Sen. Lankford noted that Secretary Kelly had only renewed Haiti’s TPS status for another 6 months instead of the usual 18 months.

Kelly emphasized that the main word in TPS is temporary and criticized former DHS Secretaries for simply extending the protection for numerous countries. “No one’s ever looked at it. And I think that’s something — we have to do that. It’s the law,” he said.

He also confirmed that he had no intention of ending the status for those who have been in the country for a long period of time but, “I can look at the Haitian situation, say 7 years, it’s a long time but it’s not so long that some of them, all of them, might be able to go back.”

Kelly asserted that sending them back would help the country. They are, “generally better educated, entrepreneurial, would be, I think, a boost to the Haitian economy in social function,” Kelly remarked.

Watch the entire hearing here.

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Updated: Wed, Jun 21st 2017 @ 12:35pm EDT