Tightening borders 'top priority' for Donald Trump's homeland security chief

Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security has said closing the country's borders to the "illegal movement of people and things" will be his top priority.

Retired Marine John Kelly outlined his priorities in a detailed questionnaire to senators which was released ahead of his confirmation hearing.

Mr Kelly embraced the president-elect's call for a strong border wall with Mexico, saying that achieving his top priority of shutting down illegal movements "starts with physical obstacles like a border wall and supporting surveillance technologies".

He said it will also require constant patrols from federal and local law enforcement.

The confirmation of Mr Kelly is almost assured, but members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are likely to use Tuesday's hearing to debate the tough immigration and border security policies that were centre to Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

Mr Kelly is one of several retired generals chosen for top positions by the incoming president, raising some concerns about undue military influence in his administration.

But Mr Kelly is widely respected by Democrats and Republicans alike, and his military experience is applicable to his Homeland Security role.

He is the former head of the military's Southern Command, based in south Florida, which routinely works with the Department of Homeland Security to combat human trafficking and drug smuggling.

The military command has also partnered with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a part of Homeland Security, to help rescue unaccompanied child immigrants trying to make their way from Central America to the United States alone.

In the questionnaire, Mr Kelly said he is committed to telling "truth to power". The commitment addresses concerns that some have about the president-elect's willingness to take in points of view that clash with his own.

Mr Kelly told the committee that his greatest successes during 40-plus years in the military are "taking care of my people, speaking 'truth to power', and successfully completing every mission I have ever been assigned".

He said he has worked with many senior US officials during his career, and "I never hesitated to disagree with any of them, or make difficult recommendations when appropriate".

In newly released ethics disclosures, Mr Kelly said that if confirmed he will resign positions with multiple consulting and government contractor firms and defence contractor DynCorp.

Mr Kelly joined the Marine Corps in 1970. He is a battle-hardened, blunt-talking veteran who served three tours in Iraq.

He was also the highest-ranking officer to lose a child in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. His son, Marine 1st Lt Robert Kelly, was killed in November 2010 in Afghanistan.

Mr Kelly would be the fifth person to lead the department, which includes agencies that protect the president, respond to disasters, enforce immigration laws, protect the nation's coastlines, stop drug smuggling and secure air travel.

In his statement for the committee, he said he has a "profound respect for the rule of law" and as secretary "will always strive to uphold it".

AP

 

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