John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, along with four other former Homeland Security secretaries are all challenging President Trump and Congress to end the ongoing partial government shutdown and “fund the critical mission of DHS.”
The letter sent by these former leaders from Washington DC says that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees have been leaving the department because they cannot continue to work unpaid as the shutdown continues on, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NBC News.
“DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate and counter terrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills while they steadfastly focus on the mission at hand,” the letter reads. “This is unconscionable.”
Kelly served as Trump’s Homeland Security secretary before becoming chief of staff. He left the White House in December, after the shutdown began.
While Kelly was in the White House, he was not publicly critical of the president, but he has reportedly told aides that Trump was not up to the job of being president. He called his experience “the worst [expletive] job I’ve ever had.”
The letter sent to Trump was also signed by former President George W. Bush’s two DHS secretaries, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and former President Barack Obama’s two DHS secretaries, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson.
The group writes that DHS is “facing a real crisis in retaining” its workforce if the shutdown continues. DHS employees are among the approximately 800,000 federal employees who are furloughed or working without pay.
“We call on our elected leaders to restore the funding necessary to ensure our homeland remains safe and that the Department’s critical national security functions continue without compromise,” the secretaries write in the letter.
The letter, addressed to President Trump and Members of Congress, came on the 33rd day of the shutdown. This shut was started because of an impasse over billions of dollars in funding for Trump’s proposed U.S.–Mexico border wall.
Lawmakers have not yet reached a deal to reopen the government, and Trump has maintained his demands for $5.7 billion in wall funding. Democrats are pushing to reopen the government before negotiating on border security.
The Senate is scheduled on Thursday to consider two contrasting plans to end the shutdown.