As DHS Secretary, Gen. John Kelly Promises to 'Faithfully Execute the Laws'

Published on January 16th, 2017

By Joe Guzzardi
January 15, 2017
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The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general somewhat overshadowed the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearings on retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly’s nomination as homeland security secretary.

Sessions and Kelly, certain to be confirmed, will be the two most crucial immigration law enforcement officials in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. As both men said during their testimonies, their jobs are to enforce the laws as written whether or not they agree with them.

In Kelly’s statements to the panel, he promised to rapidly deport illegal immigrants, and insisted that a porous border is the nation’s biggest threat.

Kelly may prove a more formidable challenge to pro-immigration special interest groups than Sessions. But the two men working together to bring common sense back into the nation’s immigration policies will be a formidable team.

The nominee to lead the Homeland Security Department promised to “faithfully execute the laws on the books,” specifically as they pertain to removing “foreign nationals without legal status.” 

President Barack Obama’s administration came under Kelly’s fire for allowing illegal immigrants to serve in the military, cutting back on state and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and using prosecutorial discretion to avoid deporting aliens.

Outcries from illegal immigrant advocacy groups that the nation’s millions of aliens cannot, as a practical matter, be deported is only partially true. DHS and the Justice Department have a vast array of tools at their disposal to, at a minimum, begin the process.

The most efficient way to start is to resume long-abandoned interior worksite enforcement, often called attrition through enforcement.

During the Obama administration, physical workplace enforcement has been in steep decline. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigative offices received funding to hire forensic accountants to perform employment paperwork audits that rarely resulted in consequence for illegal alien workers or their employers. As a rule, ICE agents rarely interview workers, much less arrest them.

The mere hint of workplace enforcement gives illegal immigrants the option between remaining, risking being arrested, detained and ultimately deported or returning voluntarily to their birth country.

Taxpayers will not have to pay billions of dollars to fund adding more agents. When an illegal immigrant cannot find or keep a job in the United States, he’ll likely go home.

To assure that illegal immigrants won’t get jobs, the Trump administration should immediately pass E-Verify. To make sure an alien doesn’t remain employed, the feds should impose heavy financial penalties on employers that violate laws prohibiting the hiring of unlawful immigrants.

Over time, interior enforcement would have three beneficial outcomes:

» Steadily reduce the $67 billion DHS budget

» Make more jobs available for the 95 million Americans not in the labor force

» Discourage further illegal immigration

Voluntary removal is already common. According to the Pew Research Center, between 2009 and 2014, 1 million illegal immigrants returned to Mexico on their own volition.

Tougher DHS border and interior enforcement won’t happen overnight. But word that Sessions and Kelly are committed to upholding immigration laws will quickly travel worldwide. The knowledge that a new, stricter immigration approach will, in and of itself, become a deterrent to illegal entry.

— Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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