Legislative Update: 12/13/2016
President-Elect Trump Nominates Kelly to Lead DHS
President-elect Donald J. Trump announced yesterday his intent to nominate retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (Presidential Transition Statement, Dec. 12, 2016) “Gen. Kelly’s decades of military service and deep commitment to fighting the threat of terrorism inside our borders makes him the ideal choice to serve as our Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security,” Trump said in a statement. (Id.) “He is the right person to spearhead the urgent mission of stopping illegal immigration and securing our borders,” Trump added. (Id.)
Aside from his distinguished war record, Kelly brings extensive knowledge of border issues and Southern Hemisphere governments to the crucial position that oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Washington Times, Nov. 27, 2016) Kelly recently retired from his final post as commander of the Florida-based U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) after nearly half a century of military service. (Id.) As SOUTHCOM commander, his missions included the border with Mexico, as well as counternarcotics trafficking and counterinsurgency. (Id.) This portfolio allowed him regular meetings with Central and South American leaders, relationships that could help in addressing root causes of illegal migration from the region. (Id.)
If confirmed, Kelly will be faced with the enormous challenge of undoing the Obama administration’s eight-year effort to dismantle U.S. immigration enforcement capabilities, all while the nation faces a resurgence in illegal immigration and growing security threats from international terrorist organizations. In a statement accepting the nomination, Kelly assured the public that he is up to the task. (Presidential Transition Statement, Dec. 12, 2016) “The American people voted in this election to stop terrorism, take back sovereignty at our borders, and put a stop to political correctness that for too long has dictated our approach to national security,” Kelly said. (Id.) “I will tackle those issues with a seriousness of purpose and a deep respect for our laws and Constitution.” (Id.)
FAIR President Dan Stein hailed the nomination of Kelly, noting that he brings the agency much needed expertise and an unwavering commitment to securing the nation’s borders against terrorism and illegal immigration. (FAIR Press Release, Dec. 7, 2016) “Gen. Kelly has spent his life defending our nation and fully understands the critical role border security plays in protecting the country from the threats of terrorism, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and drugs,” Stein said. (Id.) “He will bring a renewed commitment to controlling our borders and ensuring the safety of the American homeland.” (Id.)
President-elect Donald Trump continued filling out his cabinet last week by announcing several nominees, including fast food executive Andrew Puzder to head the Department of Labor. The selection of the Hardee’s/Carl Jr.’s chief executive is notable because Puzder has a long history of promoting mass amnesty and increasing guest workers—positions that are contrary to those Trump successfully campaigned on. (See Washington Examiner, Dec. 9, 2016) In 2013, Puzder wrote an op-ed praising the Schumer-Rubio Gang of Eight style “comprehensive” immigration reform. (Politico, Jan. 24, 2013) Later that year, he called for significant increases to cheap guest workers even though the labor force participation rate was (and remains) at historically low levels. (See Washington Examiner, Dec. 9, 2016) More recently, he signed a 2015 statement with other business interests calling on the Republican presidential candidates to embrace amnesty to take the issue off the table. (New American Economy Press Release, Feb. 17, 2015) “Fixing our broken immigration system is the right thing to do,” Puzder said. (Id.) “America should be a destination for hard-working immigrants from all over the world. Our economy will benefit from that.” (Id.)
FAIR’s president, Dan Stein, expressed skepticism over Puzder’s nomination. “President-elect Trump’s choice of Andrew Puzder to run the Department of Labor raises questions and concerns about whether he will vigorously defend the interests of American workers. Puzder has served as an executive of a fast food conglomerate – an industry that has thrived on low-wage labor, illegal workers, and which has lobbied for greater access to foreign guest workers to maximize corporate profits,” Stein said. (FAIR Press Release, Dec. 8, 2016) “Based on Puzder’s support for increased guest workers, can struggling American workers count on him to maintain tight labor markets that promote wage increases?” Stein asked. (Id.) “The American people need to be reassured that the incoming Labor Secretary will not prioritize the interests of cheap labor employers over the interests of those same American workers.” (Id.)
Puzder responded to criticisms of his prior immigration statements over the weekend. “My job as the Secretary of Labor, if confirmed, is to serve U.S. citizen workers – that is my moral and constitutional duty. The public spoke loud and clear in this election, and delivered a mandate to protect American workers,” Puzder said. (See Breitbart News, Dec. 10, 2016) “It makes no economic sense to spend trillions on welfare and jobless benefits for out of work Americans while bringing in foreign worker to fill jobs in their place,” he insisted. (Id.) “As Secretary of Labor, I will fiercely defend American workers and implement my piece of the ten point plan the President-elect laid out.” (Id.)
Last week, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) gave his second annual State of Homeland Security Address. (See Chairman McCaul State of Homeland Security Address, Dec. 7, 2016) McCaul, who was on the short list to lead the Department of Homeland Security, focused heavily on terrorism and immigration throughout his speech. Several times McCaul told the audience that his message to the American people was that “your voice was heard, and Congress will work with the Trump Administration to get the job done.” (Id.) Below are some of the highlights of McCaul’s speech.
“We must immediately suspend immigration from high-risk countries where we cannot confidently weed out terror suspects.” (See Chairman McCaul State of Homeland Security Address, Dec. 7, 2016)
“We are a compassionate nation, and we have a very proud tradition of welcoming refugees. But we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our humanitarian efforts. We know for certain that groups like ISIS have already used refugee flows as a Trojan Horse to attack our allies in France and Germany. Top national security officials have told me—privately and publicly—that they are not confident in our ability to prevent terror operatives from infiltrating the Syrian refugee program. So until we get the right protections in place, it should be suspended.” (Id.)
“We must employ extreme vetting and anyone applying for a visa needs to go through a thorough background check in their country before they are allowed to come to America.” (Id.)
“Talking heads here in Washington have spent years promising border security, while giving us the opposite. That is all about to change. Starting next month, the people are going to get what they asked for. We are going to build the wall. Period. In the process, I will stand side-by-side with the Trump Administration to throw out President Obama’s reckless immigration policies and start enforcing our nation’s laws.” (Id.)
McCaul says “we must start with an immediate border security surge” which he wants “Trump to announce on day 1.” “We have started to work on emergency plans in Congress to build the tough array of barriers we need along the border, close all gaps, and defend American sovereignty.” (Id.) He says that his legislation will be unveiled in the New Year and he will personally push to get it to Trump’s desk quickly.
“We will put in place a historic, multi-layered defense system” which includes “more Border Patrol agents, new authorities, aerial surveillance, sensors, and other technology to protect our territory.” (Id.)
Congress needs to fund this immediately but Americans shouldn’t have to pay. He said there are many reasonable ways to do pay for it: immigration fees, security tolls, and seizing and freezing drug cartel assets (which is already done) and redirecting the funds to the border.
McCaul didn’t just focus on the border – he said that NAFTA must be renegotiated, Obama’s executive amnesties must be rescinded, he would support Trump to end “catch and release” policies, and reform asylum standards” so that aliens cannot simply use magic words to get a free pass into America.” McCaul also wants to find and remove all criminal aliens and force countries to accept their citizens back. He wants to cut off funds to sanctuary cities, catch people who overstay their visas (put in place the biometric entry/exit system that is unfilled from the 9/11 Commission), and he won’t forget American workers – need to mandate E-verify so illegals don’t take American jobs.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced that he will hold confirmation hearings for true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President-elect Trump’s selection for Attorney General, in mid-January before Trump is sworn in as the 45th president. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 22, 2016) In a statement, Grassley noted, “Since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nomination of Herbert Brownell to be the 62nd Attorney General in 1953, hearings on a newly-elected president’s Attorney General nominee have been held prior to inauguration. (Grassley Press Release, Dec. 9, 2016) “The hearings for the four most recent Attorneys General lasted one to two days each. At each of those hearings, three to nine outside witnesses testified.” (Id.) In announcing the January 10-11 dates, Grassley pointed out that the schedule for Sessions follows “the same timeline as the nomination of Attorney General Eric Holder.” (Id.)
Senator Sessions’s 33 page response to the Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire can be viewed here.