Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (left) speaks as Chief of United States Border Patrol Ronald Vitiello looks on during a meeting at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. AP pool photo/Denis Poroy

New Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly promised Friday to work with San Diego area law enforcement officials and pledged no dramatic changes until he fully understands local needs.

“I promise you we’ll work with you and will make no Draconian moves until I fully understand what a given locale might be doing or not doing,” he said.

The meeting at the San Ysidro Port of Entry came near the end of Kelly’s two-day tour of the nation’s border with Arizona and California.

In response to a question from San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, Kelly said he couldn’t define what constitutes a “sanctuary city” for immigrants.

But he added that “it’s inconceivable to me that people who are sworn to protect their communities would not want someone, anyone to remove criminals from their communities and send them somewhere else.”

“I’m stunned when people say, well, we’re not going to cooperate with you even in the event of convicted criminals,” said Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who served three tours in Iraq.

He said “it would be hard for me to justify giving grant money to cooperate with removal operations and you were not able to help us with that.”

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and the police chiefs of Chula Vista, La Mesa, National City, Escondido, Coronado, Oceanside, Carlsbad and El Cajon were among the officials attending the meeting.

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.