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Head of Homeland Security Defends “Get Tough” Approach


Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly takes part in a discussion at George Washington University in Washington, April 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)


The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week strongly defended how his agency is dealing with what he sees as threats to the country.

Former Marine general John Kelly said he is tired of the criticisms directed at his workers by some members of the media, lawmakers and others. He said his agents are just enforcing the law. And his agents are protecting Americans.

“Make no mistake, we are in fact a nation under attack. We are under attack from people who hate us, hate our freedoms, hate our laws, hate our values, hate the way we simply live our lives.”

Kelly spoke Wednesday at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He said his department’s stronger enforcement of immigration laws has led to a drop in the number of detentions of people trying to cross into the southwestern United States from Mexico.

He says that helps people on both sides of the border.

“Fewer people crossing the border illegally means fewer deaths in the desert.”

Kelly says there are other borders to worry about, as well. They include some that are vulnerable to militants who once fought for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Kelly says large numbers of these fighters have already begun to return to their home countries. He says he is worried about those who are returning to European countries. Agreements between many European countries and the United States permit citizens to enter the U.S. without a visa.

Homeland Security officials are also worried that terrorist groups and criminal organizations are working together. Secretary Kelly warned that these groups have become so good at smuggling that they can move almost anything around the world.

The department says the network of criminal groups and smugglers has brought hundreds of tons of drugs into the U.S. And until recently, it was moving tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.

Kelly said the group “could move other things, too” -- including biological weapons or even a nuclear bomb.

European security officials have similar worries. Intelligence officials believe that criminal networks have helped terrorists across North Africa and the Middle East launder money, profit from the drug trade and secretly become rich.

I’m Phil Dierking.

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

vulnerable – adj. open to attack, harm or damage

wreak havoc – v. to cause (something very harmful or damaging); to create a situation in which there is much destruction or confusion

smuggle – v. to move (someone or something) from one country into another illegally and secretly

launder – v. to put (money that you got by doing something illegal) into a business or bank account in order to hide where it really came from

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