DHS Nominee Kelly: 'Defense of the SW Border Really Starts About 1,500 Miles South'

By Susan Jones | January 11, 2017 | 5:34 AM EST

Homeland Security Secretary-designate John Kelly arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - "A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job," retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, the Homeland Security Secretary nominee, told Congress on Tuesday.

"It has to be really a layered defense," Kelly said. "If you were to build a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, you'd still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, by sensors, by observation devices.

"But as I've said to many of the senators present, and I've said I think for three years, really I believe the defense of the Southwest border really starts about 1,500 miles south, and that is partnering with some great countries, as far south as Peru, really, that are very cooperative with us in terms of getting after the drug production and transport."

Kelly said most of the illegal immigrants from Central America are coming to the United States to flee drug-fueled violence and a lack of economic opportunity, and because they believe they'll be allowed to stay once they get here.

"They, for the most part, don't want to come up and leave their homes and families. But there isn't an awful lot of economic opportunity for them there. It is certainly a level of violence that in our country we couldn't imagine."

Kelly described Honduras as being the "most violent country on the planet."

"My view is, if we can help them by reducing our drug demand, which is the fundamental problem of many of their problems, by reducing our drug demand and at the same time helping them improve their police...and if we improve the situation of violence, my belief is, investment would come and so there'd be economic opportunity there."

Kelly also told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that part of the nation's opioid problem stems from an overly-medicated society; he intends to follow the law banning torture and waterboarding; and he accepts, "with high confidence," the findings of the intelligence community that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election.