Department of Homeland Security chief retired General John Kelly was a warrior in Iraq and other trouble spots, tragically losing a son who followed him into the Marines.
The Marines was an inevitable choice for Kelly when he decided to join up. As former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated on Kelly’s retirement, “Where else was an Irish Catholic kid from Boston to go.”
Now however Kelly is putting that stellar reputation on the line, as Donald Trump's Homeland Security czar. Instead of chasing ISIS, he's rounding up women and children and families who are in America illegally -- and it appears he is seeking the aid of the National Guard to do it.
On Friday news that the Trump administration was planning to mobilize up to 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants across eleven states caused uproar. The document bore Kelly’s name.
But the Associated Press’ (AP) scoop was immediately described as “false” by The White House.
Responding to the charge the AP quickly published a draft memo from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly written under his own name, insisting the proposal was real.
In response the Trump administration said that although the 11 published page memo clearly states it is “From John Kelly,” it was an early draft that had been quickly rejected.
In the memo Kelly, a retired four star Marine general, called for “the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana,” the AP wrote.
Up to 100,000 National Guard troops would be given immigration enforcement powers if governors in the affected states approved of the plan, the AP wrote.
The prospect of an anti-immigrant action of truly historic proportions being signed by a man named Kelly caused comment in Irish American circles, where the Irish backgrounds of key Trump staffers has been a sore spot or a point of honor depending on affiliation.
Kelly, 66, is a native of Brighton, Massachusetts and served in the Marines for more than four decades, including three tours in Iraq. In Boston, where his son who died in a 2010 bomb in Afghanistan is commemorated at a memorial in the Seaport District, Kelly is regarded as a local hero.
This is fascism. https://t.co/blceH8x2P5— Mike Signorile (@MSignorile) February 17, 2017
Meanwhile the scale and the involvement of military units in the proposed immigration sweeps have alarmed even seasoned commentators. National Guard personnel have occasionally been used to assist with immigration operations on the US-Mexico border, but they have never been used as part of a national roundup far away from the Mexican border.
The published memo, dated January 25, was addressed to the then acting heads of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Customs and Border Protection, underlining its authenticity.
This, against ridiculous competition, is his worst tweet. Criminally dangerous. This is Goebbels in 1933 territory. https://t.co/yJ1s5QCzVV— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) February 17, 2017
If, as some speculated, the memo’s leak was a trial balloon to gauge public reaction to an unprecedented and militaristic immigration sweep, what kind of actions does the administration actually have planned, they wondered?
Some also wondered if the details of the memo were leaked by the administration itself? Could it have been done to undermine the media for reporting on the memo and doing its job, further driving a wedge between the press and the public?
Or was it merely gross incompetence, leaked as a result of the chaotic first weeks of the Trump administration?
Or was it good citizens in the DHS appalled at the militarization of American streets?
One thing is certain, it will not help Trump's approval rating which is now at the historic low of 38% according to Gallup, and this is before his administration likely kicks at least 20 million people off their healthcare plans.
For the White House, the trouble may just be starting.