On Wednesday, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and four other former Homeland Security secretaries urged President Donald Trump and Congress in a letter to reach a deal to restore funding to the department and end the partial government shutdown.

“As former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we write to you today with a simple message — fund the critical mission of DHS,” wrote a bipartisan quintet comprised of Kelly, former Barack Obama secretaries Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson and former George W. Bush officials Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. 

Kelly and the other four former White House officials also noted in their letter how lawmakers often prioritizes funding the Department of Defense due to national security concerns, and argued Homeland Security should be treated with the same importance.

“Congress does so because putting national security at risk is an option we simply can’t afford,” the letter read. “DHS should be no different.”

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Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, left the White House last month shortly before the start of the shutdown, which entered its 34th day on Thursday. He served as DHS secretary from January to July 2017 before transitioning to become Trump’s Chief of Staff for the following 17 months while Kirstjen Nielsen replaced him as head of Homeland Security.


Roughly 800,000 government workers remain furloughed or without pay due to the shutdown, which persists amid a stalemate between Trump and lawmakers from both parties regarding border wall funding and illegal immigration.

The former secretaries also pointed out in their letter that while some federal employees have taken on side jobs to earn a living as the shutdown continues, Coast Guard members are legally prohibited from doing this. Many government workers have also turned to food banks, as the Food and Drug Administration has suspended routine inspections.

Kelly was known for having a contentious relationship with Trump and other administration officials — like National Security Adviser John Bolton — throughout his time in the White House. Kelly was replaced as Chief of Staff on an interim basis by Mick Mulvaneythe director of the Office of Management and Budget.

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