- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly promised Tuesday to enforce laws against sanctuary cities and said the solution to rising illegal immigration is to deport more people faster, as he laid out a starkly different direction for the Homeland Security Department under a Trump administration.

Gen. Kelly, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the sprawling department, said U.S. Border Patrol agents need to be allowed to go after migrants, and he criticized the Obama administration for giving “a pass” to the illegal immigrants caught inside the U.S. and to the cities and counties that shield them.

“I don’t think I have the authority to pick and choose what laws need to be followed. I think it’s, in a lot of ways, dangerous to think you can pick and choose laws,” the nominee told senators at a hearing.

Even his wording represents a stark break with the Obama administration. He used the term “illegal alien” — which immigrant rights advocates protest — to describe unauthorized migrants, and he repeatedly called for closer adherence to laws already on the books.

Despite his hard-line stance, Gen. Kelly’s confirmation is virtually assured. He was introduced to the panel by one senior Democrat, Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, and another Democrat called the hearing a “lovefest.”

But illegal immigrants and advocacy groups are sounding an alarm. They are demanding to know how Gen. Kelly plans to handle Dreamers, the young-adult illegal immigrants whom Mr. Obama granted a deportation amnesty in 2012.

Gen. Kelly said he was keeping an open mind and that Dreamers would not be top priorities for deportation.

He also declined to say whether he would use information from Dreamers’ applications to target them or other illegal immigrants, nor would he set a target for how many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country should be deported.

But Gen. Kelly made clear that he thinks “very large numbers” need to be deported, and quickly.

“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,” he said. “It will not be worth the investment of their life savings to get here, and it will not be worth making the dangerous trip north, if they know they will quickly be put on a bus or aircraft and returned south.”

He said the U.S. also must do more to control drug abuse. He said the national epidemic feeds the cartels and other criminal gangs that have destabilized countries to the south and caused waves of migration.

The four-star Marine general retired after tours that included leading allied forces in Iraq and then heading U.S. Southern Command, where he controlled all American forces in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The latter experience gave him a close look at the forces driving illegal immigration and at the cartels that control migration and drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere.

He said the porous U.S. border is the greatest threat to homeland security and that getting a handle on the problem is his top priority.

He was skeptical about a number of other Obama policies, including allowing illegal immigrants to sign up for military service, cutting back on cooperation with state and local police for enforcement of immigration laws, and broad use of “prosecutorial discretion” to avoid deporting most illegal immigrants.

“I believe that there is a role for traditional prosecutorial discretion, but we cannot refuse to enforce the laws on the books,” Gen. Kelly said.

The nominee also backed Mr. Trump’s signature campaign pledge for a wall as just one part of a “layered” approach, which also would include technology and manpower.

The general has not committed to Mr. Trump’s plan for “extreme vetting” of visitors from trouble spots around the world, but he said he shares the president-elect’s goals of keeping foreign terrorists out of the U.S.

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