Who is Kevin McAleenan, Trump’s acting Homeland Security chief after Kirstjen Nielsen leaves? – USA TODAY
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan talks shift in arrivals at the Southern border and conditions at Texas facilities.
Kevin McAleenan didnât take the traditional route as he rose the Homeland Security ranks.
But now, with Sunday’s resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, he’s set to become acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.Â
Her departure, and his ascension, comeÂ asÂ aÂ surge of migrantsÂ has overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system in recent months. In response,Â Trump threatened to close the border andÂ cut off aid to the Central American countries that migrants continue to flee. Trump visited the border in Calexico, California, on Friday along with Nielsen.
NielsenÂ has voiced increasing frustration at the situation, which the administration considers a national security crisis, and last week she compared it to aÂ Category 5 hurricane.
McAleenan has been at the center of that storm.
Carried out Trump’s border effortsÂ
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 1998, he worked for several years in California as an attorney practicing business and corporate law. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he decided to change course, first applying to the FBI, and eventually landing a job at what is now Customs and Border Protection.
McAleenan headed that agencyâs antiterrorism office and served as the port director of Los Angeles International Airport. He steadily rose through the ranks before Trump nominated him as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection and its 45,000 law enforcement personnel.
Ever since, McAleenan has carried out some of Trumpâs most controversial efforts to halt undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers from crossing the southern border.
The Customs officers and Border Patrol agents he commands were the ones who separated more than 2,800 migrant children from their families during Trumpâs now-blocked âzero toleranceâ policy.
His officers were the ones who fired tear gas into a crowd of migrants attempting to approach the San Ysidro Port of Entry in November, leading to questions about the administrationâs response to a rush of asylum-seeking migrants.
And starting in December, four migrants died in four months while in Border Patrol custody, highlighting the troubling conditions that migrants are housed in after entering the U.S.
McAleenan made several tweaks to his agencyâs process, ordering faster public notification of migrants deaths in CBP custody and carrying out orders from Nielsen to medically screen all children held in custody. But his overall approach to the southern border has remained consistently in line with Trumpâs.
During a visit to the San Ysidro Port of Entry last year, he was asked why the administration was adding National Guardsmen, active-duty military troops, and additional Border Patrol agents to the southern border, but not making a similar effort to add asylum officers to process and care for migrants seeking help. His answer: âThis is a law enforcement situation.â
In charge of full immigration script
He also defended another controversial practice employed by the agency of âmeteringâ would-be asylum-seekers, meaning only a limited number are allowed to enter U.S. ports of entry each day to request asylum. Critics of that process say itâs unfair of Trump to ask migrants to make their asylum claims at ports, then making them wait weeks or months on the Mexican side of the border to make that claim.
âItâs not turning people away, itâs asking them to wait,â he said.
McAleenan will now be asked to implement the full range of Trumpâs anti-immigration script. That includes taking Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has been arresting more undocumented immigrants living in the interior of the country. He will be in charge of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has faced accusations of slow-walking visa and green cards applications. And heâll also be in charge of the Secret Service, the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.