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Who is Kevin McAleenan, Trump's acting Homeland Security chief after Kirstjen Nielsen leaves?  2 Weeks ago

Source:   USA Today  

President Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Homeland Security didn't take the traditional route to his position, but Kevin McAleenan has carried out every aspect of the president's hard-line immigration strategy in an attempt to seal the southern border.

After Sunday's resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen, the former business and corporate lawyer steps into a perilous position where he'll have to please an increasingly exasperated president as illegal migration along the border explodes.

A surge of migrants has overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system in recent months. In response, Trump threatened to close the border and cut off aid to the Central American countries that migrants flee. Trump visited the border in Calexico, California, on Friday with Nielsen.

Nielsen voiced increasing frustration at the situation, which the administration considers a national security crisis. Last week, she compared it to a Category 5 hurricane.

All along, McAleenan has been at the center of that storm. 

After graduating from Amherst College and the University of Chicago Law School, he worked for several years in California as an attorney practicing business and corporate law. After the 9/11 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 agency’s anti-terrorism 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 CBP and its 45,000 law enforcement personnel.

Ever since, McAleenan has carried out some of Trump’s most controversial efforts to halt undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from crossing the southern border.

The customs officers and Border Patrol agents he commands separated more than 2,800 migrant children from their families during Trump’s now-blocked “zero tolerance” policy.

His officers fired tear gas into a crowd of migrants attempting to approach the San Ysidro Port of Entry in November, leading to questions about the administration’s response to a rush of asylum-seeking migrants.

Starting in December, four migrants died in four months while in Border Patrol custody, highlighting the conditions migrants are housed in after entering the USA.

McAleenan made several tweaks to his agency’s process, ordering faster public notification of migrants' deaths in CBP custody and carrying out orders from Nielsen to medically screen all children in custody. His overall approach to the southern border has remained consistently in line with Trump’s.

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 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: “This is a law enforcement situation.”

He defended another controversial practice employed by the agency of “metering” 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 it’s unfair of Trump to ask migrants to make their asylum claims at ports, then make them wait weeks or months on the Mexican side of the border.

“It’s not turning people away, it’s asking them to wait,” McAleenan said.

The one area where he's been at odds with Trump is on the question of aid to Central America.

Trump said he would cut $450 million in foreign aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala after deciding that those countries don't do enough to keep their citizens from migrating north to the U.S. border. During an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, McAleenan argued that those countries need that help to improve living conditions enough so their people don't flee north.

"We need to continue to support the governments in Central America to improve economic opportunities, to address poverty and hunger and to improve governance and security," he testified.

McAleenan will be asked to implement the full range of Trump’s immigration script. That includes taking over 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 card applications. And he’ll be in charge of the Secret Service, the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


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