Tester Receives Commitment from Homeland Security Secretary Nominee to Visit Montana
Senator Pushes General John Kelly on Border Security, Visa Overstays, and REAL ID During Confirmation Hearing
(U.S. Senate)- U.S. Senator Jon Tester has invited to Montana General John Kelly, President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Tester today questioned Kelly during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, pushing the former Marine Corps General to strengthen border security, crack down on visa overstays, and identify solutions to the REAL ID Act.
“What is your view on border security as it applies to not only the folks who are on patrol, but the folks who work our ports?” Tester asked.
“We can’t stop the normal flow of commerce and legal people, but by the same token, we [have to] do better at closing the border for things we don’t want to come in,” Kelly replied. “I am not as familiar as we discussed with the issues on the northern border, but as I promised you in your office the other day, I will be very quick to come up to your state, perhaps even this summer.”
Tester then questioned Kelly on his plans to reduce the number of foreigners who overstay their visas in the United States, many of whom become difficult to track down and identify. According to a DHS report, over 500,000 foreigners overstayed their visas in 2015.
“We make folks jump through hoops to get a visa, and then after they come into the country we never tell them to head home,” Tester said. “How do you plan to notify the folks that their visa has expired and it is time to head back?”
Kelly replied that he will push the Department of Homeland Security to work closer with local law enforcement officials and notify them if a foreigner in their community has overstayed their visa.
Tester additionally urged Kelly to quickly identify a solution regarding the REAL ID Act to protect privacy rights, eliminate the possibility of a national database, and strengthen national security.
“What are your plans to implement the REAL ID issue as it applies to states like Montana that don’t want to see a nationwide database and still want to keep our country safe?” Tester asked.
Kelly reaffirmed he is committed to working with officials in Montana to find a solution before the REAL ID Act’s January 2018 deadline that would prevent Montanans from flying when using only their driver’s licenses as identification.
Tester personally met with Kelly last week to discuss security threats that are specific to Montana, during which he encouraged the nominee to visit Montana firsthand.
Tester has installed a portal on his website for Montanans to provide feedback on each of President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees.
Kelly retired in 2016 as a four-star Marine general who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 45 years-both as an enlisted infantryman and an infantry officer. He served one tour of duty in Iraq and is the former commander of the U.S. Southern Command.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee must move Kelly’s nomination forward before the entire Senate can vote on his confirmation.