Kevin K. McAleenan

US Customs and Border Patrol/Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Who is Kevin McAleenan, Trump’s new acting secretary of homeland security?

Here's what you should know.

Apr 8, 2019, 10:25 am*



Andrew Wyrich

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned from her position over the weekend, and President Donald Trump announced that Kevin McAleenan would take over as acting secretary to replace her.

Nielsen, who had drawn criticism from some for the administration’s immigration policies, resigned effective April 10.

“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service….” the president wrote announcing both Nielsen’s resignation and McAleenan’s appointment. “….I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”

Here are some things you should know about the president’s new acting Homeland Security chief.

Who is Kevin McAleenan?

1) Kevin McAleenan was the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

McAleenan had been serving as the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since March 2018. He had served as the acting commissioner of the agency since January 2017.

The new acting secretary had been serving with CBP since 2001.

McAleenan helmed the agency amid criticism as it carried out Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration agenda, including its policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents.

2) Kevin McAleenan appears to be liked by both Democrats and Republicans

The Washington Post reports that McAleenan “is generally well-liked by leaders in both parties” and is seen as a “neutral, technocratic law enforcement official, rather than an immigration hawk.”

This view of the new acting secretary as neutral seems to go against the president’s desire for someone “tougher” to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when he yanked the nomination of Ronald Vitiello.

During his time as acting secretary of CBP, McAleenan has overseen the building of border wall prototypes.


3) Kevin McAleenan thinks the U.S. immigration system has reached a ‘breaking point’

Late last month McAleenan said immigration at the country’s southern border had reached a “breaking point” and that CBP had to “reluctantly” release undocumented immigrants without bringing in ICE because of overcrowding at detention facilities.

“That breaking point has arrived this week,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our southwest border, and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.”

4) Kevin McAleenan’s appointment has its issues

CNN notes there may be complications with Trump’s appointment of McAleenan. A White House official said he would be the acting head of the agency for the “short term.”

By law, the next person in the line of succession to take over CBP is Deputy Secretary Claire Grady. The New York Times reports that Grady would need to be fired to have McAleenan become the acting secretary, and that she has no intention of resigning.

Nielsen said she had agreed to stay on as secretary until later this week to “assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key DHS missions are not impacted.”

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*First Published: Apr 8, 2019, 10:19 am