To most, Bernard Kerik (search) was not the obvious choice to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
But few could deny that his stint as Iraq’s interim interior minister, his connection to the events of September 2001, and his work with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in developing a plan to reform Mexico City’s corruption riddled police force, have combined to make him an attractive choice to head the mammoth bureaucracy.
While Kerik does not have the same national prominence that Giuliani has, he has something invaluable in his pedigree that even his former boss does not: he is a cop.
And an exceptionally good cop, apparently.
As a narcotics detective, Kerik gained a reputation for doggedness in his pursuit of results and for indifference to political expediency. In the house of mirrors that is undercover narcotics work, former co-workers say Kerik was especially adept at detecting enemies among those posing as his friends. If there is a skill that will be useful to any incoming DHS head committed to being a great American rather than a great bureaucrat, it is that kind of perceptiveness.
Kerik takes the helm of DHS at a time when Americans and the administration have different expectations of the agency. Tom Ridge has been praised for molding the huge numbers of smaller agencies under him into a cohesive whole while not ruffling too many feathers. Most observers agree that Kerik is expected to make the agency do far more than it has 'til now.
At the same time, advocates of an immigration amnesty (search) are more optimistic than they have ever been now that President Bush has cleared the hurdle of the election. If the administration can’t give them the amnesty, look to the White House to insist on an even more lax border policy.
Kerik will have some obstacles in his way, not the least of which is his Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson (search). Hutchinson has devoted more time in the last two years to trying to convince Americans that little can be done to effectively police our borders than to actually policing them.
It was Hutchinson who made national news this summer when he halted a DHS operation to arrest illegal aliens in towns in southern California. Many media observers saw this as an act of capitulation to the government of Mexico, Rep. Joe Baca, and several ethnic identity groups, all of which had demanded that the arrests stop.
In Hutchinson, Kerik has an example of what frequently happens to principled effectiveness in the environment of DHS. Before he left Congress, Hutchinson signed a Dear Colleague letter opposing a 2000 amnesty of illegal aliens, voted to end Section 245(i), which allows illegal aliens to overcome the bar to legal status by paying a fine, and, ironically, twice voted to authorize the use of military troops on our borders to intercept aliens entering the U.S. Hutchinson even went as far as to reduce legal immigration by opposing the importation of certain kinds of foreign workers.
Today immigration reform groups regard Hutchinson as a political appointee who has fallen victim to nonstop lobbying efforts by agribusiness (search), ethnic identity groups and the rest of the open borders crowd. As one trial attorney for the DHS recently said, “There are just too many people on too many levels making too much money for this to come to a quick stop.”
Kerik will no doubt be subjected to exactly the same thing, and perhaps more of it. Opponents of immigration enforcement have already said that they are heartened by the fact that Kerik hails from a city that has one of the most robust sanctuary policies in the country.
Americans can hope that Bernard Kerik cop’s instincts are still intact. It’s certain that he’ll encounter enemies among those posing as friends.
Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He is the author of the soon to be published, "The New Immigration Law and Practice."