Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly cut to the chase in a recent speech and told members of Congress who register displeasure with the way the department is carrying out its enforcement duties when it comes to removing illegal aliens that the ball is in their court. If they don't like the laws that are on the books, they "should have the courage to change" them, Kelly said.
Kelly noted that his department's low morale was primarily due to constant political meddling over the course of the last decade from lawmakers and bureaucrats who have no idea what it means, or takes, to serve for his agency. Kelly noted that if they don't like the results of the laws they've passed and lack the courage or conviction to change them, they should "shut up and support the men and women on the front lines."
The comments come on the heels of complaints by Democratic lawmakers unhappy with the way the department has changed its approach to enforcement compared to the open border days of the Obama administration. Most notably, lawmakers have charged that DHS is not only removing criminal aliens, but other illegal aliens as well.
DHS has deported roughly double the number of non-criminal illegal aliens than were deported in the same timeframe during the Obama years. For the record, simply being in the U.S. illegally is a deportable offense, and only targeting illegal aliens for removal after they've committed a serious crime is a significant departure from the intent of the law written by Congress.
Kelly has stated that removing criminal aliens remains his department's priority. But, like every other law enforcement agency in the country, on his watch, ICE will continue to enforce laws against lesser offenders, even while prioritizing enforcement against those who pose a danger. Making it clear that all illegal aliens may be subject to deportation is perhaps the best deterrent we have - along with re-entry bans when repeat-offender illegal aliens are removed - against future illegal immigration.
Daniel Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.