President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine General John F. Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the third largest cabinet department. Kelly was head of the U.S. Southern Command until his retirement from the military in February 2016. If confirmed Kelly’s responsibilities will include border security and immigration.
The head of DHS is in charge of a number of key immigration component agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Kelly brings an understanding of the many cross-border issues facing the next administration. Consistent with the DHS mission, he appears to be most concerned with potential national security threats to the U.S.
During testimony before Congress, Kelly expressed concern that criminal organizations involved in smuggling people and illicit drugs to the U.S. might be used to facilitate the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction across the border. While he looks to share the view with President-elect Trump that additional hardening of the southern border is necessary, he also has said that a wall alone will not work and that the best way to contend with the current crises of unaccompanied minors and families at the border is to deal directly with the desperate conditions in Central and South American countries that propel people northward.
For further insights into his thinking, we await his confirmation hearing. Similarly, a clearer picture of the new administration’s immigration-related policies and priorities for the next several years will emerge as the administration announces other key positions, such as the head of USCIS, ICE, and CBP. General Kelly is expected to be confirmed by the Senate.