For those of us who have spent our careers defending America’s borders, and those of us who live along them, there really is no denying the border crisis the country is facing today.
The headlines are all too familiar to us: “Hundreds of migrants set out from Honduras, dreaming of U.S.” as reported by the Associated Press. Or a recent Washington Post report that found that the Biden administration was now “holding record numbers of unaccompanied migrant teens and children in detention cells for far longer than legally allowed”. This is a crisis by any definition.
Many Americans are rightly paying attention to Biden White House policies, including its policies at the border. But they also need to be paying attention to the people he is choosing for senior positions in his administration.
I spent a year and a half of my 34-year career in public service as acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I led and served with thousands of patriots and heroes every day. This was the high point in a career in government that started in 1983 when I was sworn in as a local law enforcement officer.
I served under Republicans and Democrats. I served under those who prioritized border security and those who had other immigration priorities. I was even honored for my service by President Obama.
I know what it takes to be effective in government in pursuit of the public good. And I know when someone doesn’t have what it takes to put disagreement aside, admit you’re wrong, and reach compromise because it’s good for the country.
And that’s why I know that one of President Biden’s nominees to one of the most senior and influential positions in the Pentagon, Colin Kahl, is the wrong man for the job.
Mr. Kahl has never met a disagreement he couldn’t further antagonize with a snarky one-liner. He’s referred to his political opponents on Twitter as being “guilty of ethnic cleansing” and described the Republican party as a “death cult”.
His position, if confirmed by the Senate, in the Department of Defense will make him the Pentagon’s representative to the White House. He’ll not only have a voice in matters of peace and war, he will be involved in the highest-level decisions of our government on securing the border, detaining illegal immigrants, and asylum policy.
If confirmed, Mr. Kahl’s position would require him to work with people who may disagree with him, to make compromises and see issues from perspectives other than his own. Mr. Kahl has no record of being able to do that.
And of specific interest to me, especially given the crisis unfolding today on the border, Mr. Kahl’s record is especially alarming.
He repeatedly opposed efforts to secure the border in the prior administration, such as building the wall and sending troops to the border to stem the flow of caravans of immigrants seeking to illegally cross the border or abuse the asylum process. Additional presence of enforcement on the border has most importantly, saved lives.
While people like those I led at ICE were risking their lives to protect our country, secure the border, and deport criminal illegal immigrants who posed a public safety threat, Mr. Kahl was lobbing insults at them through the safety of Twitter by telling them they were dealing with a “fake crisis at the border”.
But, thankfully, in our system, there’s a check on presidential nominees, and it’s the U.S. Senate.
It is now up to the Senate, and Arizona’s two U.S. Senators, to do the right thing for America’s security, including her border security. Arizona’s senators pride themselves on their moderation and centrism; they pride themselves on bipartisan votes and policies. They can prove those reputations by rejecting a nominee who has shown he lacks the policy judgment and temperament to serve at the highest levels of our government.
We are counting on Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to do the right thing and put Arizona’s interests over politics and loyalty to Biden and Majority Leader Schumer.
Tom Homan is the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and currently a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.