- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Border Patrol agents gave retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly their backing Wednesday to be the next Homeland Security secretary, and thanked President-elect Donald Trump for consulting them before making a pick that the agents said should go a long way to right the problems in the troubled department.

The National Border Patrol Council, which represents line agents, said that despite Gen. Kelly’s lack of experience with immigration issues, “he comes in with stellar credentials.”

The union said, though, that it gives its backing with the understanding that Gen. Kelly will work with agents rather than at cross-purposes, as they have accused previous secretaries of doing.

“General Kelly’s troops, by all accounts, loved him, which, bodes well for the morale issue within DHS, and he appears to be a no-nonsense rule of law general,” the agents said.

Sources confirmed that Mr. Trump would tap the retired general to lead the sprawling department that includes not only three immigration agencies, but also emergency management, the U.S. Secret Service and responsibility for defending the nation against cyber attacks.

Gen. Kelly won the job over other contenders who had much more extensive experience with immigration issues, but as the former head of Southern Command, the military’s post overseeing U.S. activities in Central and South America, the general had a close look at the smuggling cartels and problems that fed into drug and illegal migration heading north.

SEE ALSO: John F. Kelly to be Donald Trump’s DHS chief

He drew the attention of Mr. Trump’s aides after insightful testimony to Congress identifying the southwestern border as a national security problem.

Immigrant-rights advocates have questioned whether Mr. Kelly is ready for the job, and have said they hope he will blunt some of Mr. Trump’s more aggressive proposals to crack down on illegal immigrants. Security-minded advocates say they’re ready to give the general a chance — though they also said Mr. Trump needs to surround him with knowledgable chiefs at the immigration agencies under his control.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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