For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) John Kelly visited McAllen Texas, where he met with DHS employees performing our nation’s border security mission in the Rio Grande Valley. Secretary Kelly also joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott to discuss our joint efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, and received briefings on DHS southwest border capabilities and operations.
Pool coverage of today’s visit was provided by KRGV and The Monitor. Following are pool materials for the visit.
Below are the pool notes for Secretary John Kelly’s first visit as DHS secretary to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas:
Pool report from Feb. 1 meeting between Sec. John Kelly, with the Dept. of Homeland Security and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters in Weslaco, Texas, about 20 miles east of McAllen, Texas and nine miles north of the border with Mexico
The DPS headquarters is located on International Boulevard, which leads to a cross border bridge leading into Progresso, Mexico:
At just before 8:30 a.m. CST, Sec. Kelly and Gov. Abbott arrived in a secure area of the approximately five-acre site of the DPS headquarters and entered through the back entrance. They spent of few minutes greeting DPS employees who lined a 25-yard long internal hallway of the DPS building as the two men made their way to a briefing room at the front of the building.
They were accompanied by a contingent of security and other aides. They did not take questions from the pool.
They made their way to Room H-108.09, a large conference room that had at least three large monitors across the front wall and a smaller monitor that appeared to be showing scenes of aerial surveillance of an unknown location.
On the other monitors, there appeared to be the opening slide of a Powerpoint presentation, the slide saying, “Operation Secure Texas” and subhead “Texas Border Security Operations,” and contained the badges of 11 different federal and state agencies. There were approximately 30 people from different security agencies gathered in the room, including DPS, U.S. Border Patrol and DHS. Along with Gov. Abbott was Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw.
After a few more minutes of greetings, Sec. Kelly sat in the front row of the briefing room and Gov. Abbott was facing him and addressed the entire room beginning at 8:38 a.m.:
Gov. Abbott: “If I could have your attention. If everyone could please grab a seat. I want to thank everybody for being here and joining me in welcoming our outstanding Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. Thank you so much for being here, for two weeks. And he’s still on the job, he hasn’t left yet (laughter). It’s going to get nothing but better from here.
As governor of Texas, I want to welcome you to the state of Texas, welcome you to our team here, the Texas Department of Public Safety and let you know more about what we are doing and how well we work in conjunction with your team, your operation with the United State of America.
We have some folks from the Rio Grande Valley with us today. And I know an issue they are concerned about: that is we want to achieve safety and security, but we also want to promote economic development. Mexico is our largest trading partner. We need to, I think, ensure we are able to continue that very effective trade. At the same time, we have so many Texans being so concerned with our border being completely overrun with more than a thousand people a day crossing the border. These are people who aren’t just coming across from Mexico, these are people who are coming across from the entire world, and we are thankful to you, to your commitment, to the president and his commitment and your entire team for working collaboratively with us on achieving common goals to make sure that we regain the sovereignty and control of our border and keep our people safe. Able to crack down on the trans-national gangs and cartels who try to escalate their operations in the state of Texas. We look forward to visiting with you and your entire team to talk about all of those issues and so much more. But, most importantly, a big Texas welcome to the Lone Star state. Welcome general, secretary Kerry—Kelly (laughter, applause).”
After speaking just over two minutes, Gov. Abbott then introduced Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Steve McCraw: “I’m Steve McCraw, I work for the governor, obviously. I’m the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. We very grateful that you’re here. We’re very grateful that you (inaudible) Chief Ron Vitiello who served down here and is our new chief. He’s a great leader and we’re very blessed that you put him in that position. We work so much with the Border Patrol, you’re going to hear nothing but positives from us about the Border Patrol. We’re confident that, given the right resources, they can do the job. There’s no question about it. And, to start from the beginning of our concern, obviously, from a statewide standpoint, almost significantly involves the border with Mexico. As a result of it, it has resulted in impacts across the state. And not just Texas, throughout the nation. I listened to your testimony. You get it. We won’t spend a lot of time talking about that. We (inaudible) the Department of Public Safety, what they have done, what they can do.”
Then Secretary Kelly immediately spoke up:
“Governor, I would just offer that thirty-nine months of my life, when I was with SouthComm, I had the view of south looking north and that’s a different view a lot of times than north looking south, but I’m very, very aware of everything from drug trafficking flow to the people flow. Jeh Johnson, my predecessor, and I, long, long before I thought I would get another job, he and I were in constant contact about the border and really collaborative between SouthComm and DHS. Oftentimes, I tell people I talked to Jeh at least weekly, on a regular basis, and never had a conversation with DOD about my job. That’s how close we worked with DHS. A lot of people, speaking of Washington, have a lot of opinions about this border. The only opinion, in my view, that counts right now are from the people that work this border, the Texas public safety, DHS, that’s why I’m here. I’ll be down a lot. There’s a lot of people to talk to about the wall and a lot of other types of aspects about the border. I’m down here to find out. I suspect I have a pretty good idea, but there’s nothing like talking to the men and women who get dirty every day doing the nation’s work.”
Gov. Abbott then said: “We’re delighted to have you here. I think we’re going to talk about a few things.”
At that point, the media pool was escorted out of the room.
In just under one hour, at 9:28 a.m., the governor and secretary Kelly emerged from the back of the DPS headquarters and moved about 500 yards to a heliport.
Gov. Abbott was the first to strap into a Vietnam era UH-1 Huey helicopter owned by the Department of Homeland Security. Then the governor and Secretary Kelly received a safety briefing by DHS agent Pete Barrientes, before Kelly and other aides board the helicopter and strapped in.
At 9:47 a.m., a Department of Public Safety Airbus A-Star 50 helicopter lifted off, followed by a second Huey helicopter, followed by the helicopter with Gov. Abbott and Sec. Kelly on board. The three helicopters were going to take an aerial tour before landing at the McAllen-Miller International Airport. There, the governor was scheduled to board a plane and fly to Houston where he would eventually be attending this Sunday’s Super Bowl game.
Meanwhile, Sec. Kelly was scheduled to hold an off-the-record town hall meeting around 4 p.m. CST with members of the Department of Homeland Security and all its affiliated agencies that are based in the Rio Grande Valley.