By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Homeland Security Department vowed Tuesday to “rapidly” deport illegal immigrants from the U.S. and said the biggest threat to the country is a still-porous border, as he appeared before Congress for his confirmation hearing.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly chided the Obama administration for giving “a pass” to most illegal immigrants, and said he believes the job of the secretary is to enforce the laws on the books, which includes deporting those who aren’t authorized to be in the U.S.

“The Congress has passed longstanding laws making foreign nationals without legal status removable from the United States, and it is proper for DHS, like any other law enforcement organization, to faithfully execute the laws on the books,” he said in extensive answers to written questions, released by the Homeland Security Committee as his hearing began.

He would not commit to a specific number of illegal immigrants he would deport, nor would he say how he would handle Dreamers, the young-adult illegal immigrants to whom President Obama granted a deportation amnesty in 2012.

But Gen. Kelly was skeptical of a number of other Obama policies, including allowing illegal immigrants to sign up for military service, cutting back on cooperation with state and local police when it comes to immigration enforcement, and broad use of “prosecutorial discretion” to avoid deporting most illegal immigrants.

“I believe that there is a role for traditional prosecutorial discretion, but we cannot refuse to enforce the laws on the books,” Gen. Kelly said.

The nominee also said a wall should be part of the mix of border security, backing Mr. Trump’s signature border security pledge from the campaign.