Washington, D.C. — Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Ken Gude issued the following statement on the nomination of Gen. John Kelly to head the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Donald Trump—the only person ever to become president with no previous government, military, or national security experience—has now nominated three recently retired generals to oversee America’s national security policy, following news that Gen. John Kelly is his choice for secretary of homeland security. Regardless of Gen. Kelly’s qualifications or those of the other generals chosen for critical roles, this unprecedented number of recently retired generals potentially serving in top national security posts in the Trump administration threatens to undermine the bedrock democratic principle of civilian control over national security.
In the case of Gen. Kelly’s nomination, this is particularly troubling because the Department of Homeland Security is the primary domestic security agency in the United States. While the DHS is relatively new, there has never been a serving or retired military officer in charge of this or any other primary domestic security agency of the U.S. government.
Gen. Kelly has served with distinction for four decades and no one can question the sacrifices he and his family have made in service to this country. His military service is unusual for such a nominee, and when considering Gen. Kelly’s nomination and the nomination and legal changes required for Gen. James Mattis’ for Secretary of Defense, Congress should demand assurances from the incoming administration and their nominees that they will take concrete steps to protect civilian control of American foreign and domestic security policy.
Vice President of Immigration Policy Tom Jawetz added:
Much remains to be seen about how Gen. Kelly will go about implementing President-elect Trump’s immigration agenda, and in particular if he will pursue such policies as building the wall across the U.S. southern border, and affecting the mass deportation of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. As head of DHS, he will also have the authority to keep or revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum, under which more than 741,000 young people have been able to gain a temporary reprieve from deportation, get a work permit, and significantly contribute to the country’s economy.
We will also be watching carefully to ensure that efforts to secure the border and go after smugglers and cartels do not deter those seeking asylum from finding protection in the United States. In addition, we will be watching closely who is nominated to lead key posts at DHS, including the positions of deputy secretary and head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, which will set the tone for just how detrimental the new Administration will be to the progress we have made on immigration over the past eight years under President Barack Obama. We need to move the country forward on immigration, not backwards.
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