Acting Homeland Security Secretary Stepping down, Trump says

John Harney

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is stepping down, President Donald Trump said on Friday night.

“Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security,” Trump tweeted as he headed to a rally in Louisiana. “We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down. Kevin now, after many years in Government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector.”

McAleenan became the acting secretary only in April, after Trump forced out his predecessor, Kirstjen Nielsen. He had been commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

But like Nielsen, McAleenan had to balance Trump’s wish for harsher immigration policies with what the laws and the courts allowed him to do, and contend with critics among the Democrats who had taken control of the House of Representatives. Unlike Nielsen, he remained in an acting capacity.

The president wanted a strong, law enforcement-type figure in charge of Homeland Security because he associates the sprawling department – created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – mostly with border issues and not with its other missions such as cyber security, airport screening and natural disaster response, people familiar with the matter said after Nielsen’s resignation.

In an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month, McAleenan said he found himself isolated in the Trump administration and that he did not have the authority he needed within his own department.

In August, he became the target of intense criticism over the timing of immigration raids at food processing plants in Mississippi that took place days after a gunman in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people at a Walmart, and apparently had singled out Latinos.

Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he wished the raids hadn’t happened after the mass shooting, McAleenan said “the timing was unfortunate.”

He added that the operation “was done with sensitivity” – with caseworkers on hand, and agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, at local schools as liaisons.

McAleenan, a lawyer who practiced in California before taking a series of government jobs, issued a statement that he posted on Twitter shortly after Trump’s announcement on Friday night.

“I want to thank the president for the opportunity to serve alongside the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. With his support, over the last 6 months, we have made tremendous progress mitigating the border security and humanitarian crisis we faced this year, by reducing unlawful crossings, partnering with governments in the region to counter human smugglers and address the causes of migration and deploy additional border security resources,” he said.