Job One at Homeland Security Under Trump: Immigration

WASHINGTON — When President Trump addressed employees of the Department of Homeland Security, just five days after being sworn in, he essentially had one issue on his mind: cracking down on illegal immigration.

Absent from the speech was any mention of the department’s other responsibilities, like protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure, including computer systems, ensuring airline passenger safety or even protecting the president himself.

The address in January, critics said, reflected the president’s nearly single-minded priority for the Department of Homeland Security, which employs nearly 250,000 people in seven agencies.

“It’s all immigration, it’s the wall and it’s enforcement,” said Juliette Kayyem, a Homeland Security official in the Obama administration. “Nothing about FEMA or cyber or counterintelligence,” she added, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Just immigration all the time.”

Homeland Security officials reject the idea that the agency is too focused on immigration. Officials noted that Mr. Trump signed an executive order on cybersecurity and has proposed adding money and staff to the agency’s cybersecurity efforts.

The officials add that the president appointed Brock Long, an experienced emergency management official, to head FEMA. Mr. Long was confirmed, 95 to 4, by the Senate.

They also point out that John F. Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, has taken a number of steps to protect air travel, including a temporary ban on portable electronics from some countries and implementing new screening measures to thwart attacks.

“No one is going to tell you that immigration and border security aren’t priorities; they are the priorities that the president ran on,” said Jonathan Hoffman, assistant secretary for public affairs at the department.

By Ron Nixon for The New York Times
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