Cheap-Labor Lobby Gears Up to Capture DHS from John Kelly

immigration
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Business-allied GOP leaders will push one of their own for the top slot at the Department of Homeland Security, despite President Donald Trump’s apparent preference for senior military executives, say immigration reformers.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sought the top immigration job in late 2016. Instead, Donald Trump picked retired General John Kelly, who is now moving over to become the White House Chief of Staff, leaving behind a small but growing group of pro-Trump advisors and officials. 

McCaul is part of the GOP’s corporate wing, which vehemently openly opposes Trump’s election-winning promise to reform U.S. immigration system in favor of U.S. employees, and away from the GOP’s business donors.  His critics label him “No-Wall-McCaul,” because he has sided with the cheap-labor groups which oppose Trump’s symbolic-and-concrete border wall between American employers and the world’s bottomless supply of cheap labor.

In 2015, for example, McCaul’s 2015 State of Homeland Security Address was overwhelmingly focused on the threat of “terror,” which was mentioned 54 times, but the  text did not include any mention of the words that won the election for Trump — “wall,” “fence,” “worker,” “employee,” “job,” “wage,” or “salary.” The speech was so focused on terrorism that it did not even use the words “immigration,” “illegal,” or “alien.”

McCaul also published a December 2016 op-ed which included the phrase “In the meantime, we can’t forget about American workers” 500 words after the first sentence. Worse, McCaul was touted for the job by President Barack Obama’s homeland secretary Jeh Johnson, who implemented had Obama’s open doors border policy. “I don’t know anybody who is stronger on border security in Congress that I have dealt with,” Jeh Johnson said about McCaul.

That endorsement “should be the kiss of death,” said Jessica Vaughan, the policy director at the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies.

On Friday, McCaul announced a new bill that would allow the Congress to spend $10 billion on a package of programs for border defense, including a wall and more temporary surveillance technology. The bill, however, does not appropriate any actual funds to build the border wall, which is already authorized by a 2006 law. According to the bill text:

The Secretary shall upgrade existing physical infra- 14 structure of the Department of Homeland Security, and 15 construct and acquire additional physical infrastructure, 16 including— 17 (1) U.S. Border Patrol stations; 18 (2) U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints; 19 (3) mobile command centers; and 20 (4) other necessary facilities, structures, and 21 properties.

In 2015, Trump’s Attorney General, then Sen. Jeff Sessions, opposed McCaul’s border security bill, which sought to spend money on a variety of non-wall, virtual barriers. Other pro-employee advocates doubt McCaul’s willingness to shrink the cross-border labor supply which cuts’ American wages:

The process to replace Kelly is going to be “incredibly nasty,” said one immigration reformer, because Trump’s immigration policy must be pushed against vehement bipartisan opposition by a determined and effective leader. Trump has recognized that he wants tough deputies to handle the tough job of immigration enforcement, partly because a good DHS leadership will help Trump to stay above the day-to-day fight.

Trump has already made clear he wants tough deputies to handle the tough job of immigration enforcement, partly because a good DHS leadership will help Trump to stay above the day-to-day fight.

Another establishment nominee could be Rudy Giuliani, who was one of Trump’s early backers. But he is an advocate for amnesty and is tied to the investment groups in New York. Those investment houses would lose billions of dollars as Trump’s enforcement policies and immigration reforms gradually push up U.S. wages.

Similarly, the GOP’s establishment leaders would likely back Frances Fragos Townsend, who worked as the homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush, who tried twice to push through a cheap-labor-and-amnesty bill. “That’s the kind of person they would like,” said an amnesty opponent.

Corporate groups want to run the department, in part, because it delivers roughly 1.5 million foreign contact-workers each year to companies around the country. Kelly has fought against the expansion of these cheap-labor programs, saying he knows they hurt American workers.

Pro-American groups are cheering their favorite pro-employee candidate, immigration expert Kris Kobach.

He has a deep knowledge of immigration and the guest-worker programs, and he fully supports Trump’s “Hire American” mantra. His confirmation would be difficult because Democrats have already spent much effort building up hate against Kobach for his pro-American immigration reforms, and for his efforts to clear illegal off U.S. voter rolls. Immigration reformer Mark Krikorian is pushing Kobach:

Business groups are already campaigning to keep Kobach out of the job. Todd Schulte, who runs the FWD.US cheap-labor advocacy group funded by technology billionaires tweeted on Friday:

David Leopold, a lawyer who makes his living by help companies import cheap foreign employees instead of training and hiring Americans, described Krikorian as a “hater” for supporting Kobach.

The depth of hatred towards Trump’s pro-American policies was illustrated by a former staffer at America’s Voice, a progressive immigration-and-amnesty group.

Another suggested candidate is professor and immigration expert Jan Ting, but he backed Obama in 2008 — albeit to help defeat the GOP presidential candidate, amnesty advocate Sen. John McCain.

Sheriff David Clark was suggested a candidate by one pro-American reformer, but partly to goad Democrats into lurid opposition.

Trump is more likely to seek another John Kelly — a retired senior military officer who has the experience needed to run the huge DHS agency, plus the strong character needed to deal with politicians in foreign capitals and the U.S capitol. “That seems the be the best thing…  [the military] has to be the only pool he can pull from,” said a pro-American immigration lobbyist. 

One obvious set of candidates are the officers who worked with Kelly when he ran U.S. Southern Command, which stretches from south of Florida and Texas to past the southernmost cliff of Chile.

Kelly replaced Adm. James Stavridis and was replaced by Admiral Kurt W. Tidd. Tidd has much experience, including experience with the Islamic ideology that fuels terrorism against the United States and Europe. He was the director for Counterterrorism Policy at the National Security Council from 2005 to 2007.

The command’s deputy leaders have included Army general Ken “PK” Keen and Lt. Gen.  Joseph P. DiSalvo.

Former commandants of the U.S. Coast Guard would be potential candidates, partly because they have years of experience in Latin America, because of the transport of drugs to the United States.  

Kelly is a U.S. Marine and may favor the leaders produced by that relatively small and self-reliant group. They include Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or one of many less-recognized figures, such as the U.S Marine Corps’ serving Inspector General, Vince Coglianese.

Some officers will be excluded, such as former Marine Corps four-star General John Allen, who campaigned against Trump in 2016.

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