Donald Trump is planning to hand responsibility for immigration and the US-Mexico border to John Kelly, a retired general who led US military operations in Latin America.
The president-elect has chosen the former Marine general to be secretary of homeland security, head of the department that oversees immigration policy, US media reported on Wednesday.
The job would give Mr Kelly, 66, a pivotal role in implementing border policies for a president-elect who secured victory in part with his tough rhetoric on unauthorised immigrants and pledge to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Since the election, however, Mr Trump has reduced his focus on immigration and said his immediate priorities are trade, tax reform and healthcare.
The homeland security post requires Senate confirmation.
Mr Kelly is the third retired general to be picked by the president-elect after James Mattis, his choice for defence secretary, and Mike Flynn, his national security adviser. His selection was first reported by CBS television.
Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, told reporters at Trump Tower on Wednesday evening: “I can’t confirm or deny [the Kelly choice] just because it’s the president-elect’s decision to reveal his picks. They had a very productive and exciting meeting recently and obviously General Kelly is qualified for that job.”
The homeland security nominee retired in February as chief of US Southern Command, which is responsible for all US military activities in a region that encompasses Latin America and the Caribbean but excludes Mexico.
He clashed with the Obama administration over the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, opposing the president’s unfulfilled plan to close it and rejecting criticism about the treatment of detainees.
Mr Kelly’s son Lieutenant Robert Kelly was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 as a member of US forces fighting the Taliban.
The Department of Homeland Security is a sprawling agency whose duties include counterterrorism, airport security, border patrol and enforcing immigration laws.
It would play a central role in Mr Trump’s plans to deport many of the 11m unauthorised immigrants living in the US, if he pushed ahead with that campaign pledge.
Shortly after his victory Mr Trump vowed to deport 2-3m people who are in the US illegally, including “gang members [and] drug dealers”, but he stepped back from his campaign pledge to expel a larger number of people, many of whom have deep roots in the US.
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