Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly had some strong words for lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
"If lawmakers do not like the laws they've passed and we are charged to enforce — then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws. Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines," Kelly said.
Speaking at George Washington University, Kelly outlined the threats facing the U.S., from lone-wolf, home-grown terrorists to transnational crime organizations.
But he said morale in his department was low, and DHS employees have suffered from political pressures that had little to do with their work on the ground.
"My people have been discouraged from doing their jobs for nearly a decade, disabled by pointless bureaucracy and political meddling, and suffered disrespect and contempt by public officials who have no idea what it means to serve," Kelly said.
Kelly has faced pressure from lawmakers, particularly the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to ensure his agents aren't abusing their enforcement powers. Democratic Rep. Joaquín Castro said he was concerned that Kelly might adopt a "'see no evil, hear no evil' mentality" when it comes to agent misconduct.
Kelly called the U.S. the "Super Bowl" of terror targets and reinforced his commitment to protecting the country, despite his critics.
"My people — the men and women of this department — do a difficult and at times nearly impossible job in the service of the American people. They deserve our nation's thanks and respect. They deserve to be proud of the jobs they do. We are moving in exactly the right direction," Kelly said.