Act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary step­ping down

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By COLLEEN LONG

WASH­ING­TON — Kevin McAleenan, a ca­reer civil ser­vant who be­came the un­likely point man for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s hard­line im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, is step­ping down as act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary after six months on the job. McAleenan told The

As­so­ci­ated Press he was leav­ing on his own terms — a con­trast to other top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials pushed out dur­ing Trump’s ten­ure. But his de­par­ture ends an awk­ward pe­riod of lead­er­ship — one in which McAleenan de­lighted Trump by get­ting bor­der cross­ing num­bers to fall yet re­mained an out­sider in an ad­min­is­tra­tion where top fig­ures — in­clud­ing in his own de­part­ment — were brash Trump sup­port­ers pop­u­lar on con­ser­va­tive me­dia.

A White House of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the de­ci­sion con­firmed that it was McAleenan’s de­ci­sion. The of­fi­cial wasn’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly and spoke to AP on con­di­tion of anonymity. Trump tweeted that McAleenan was leav­ing to spend more time with his fam­ily and go to the pri­vate sec­tor.

No re­place­ment was yet named at the de­part­ment, which has seen its ranks dec­i­mated through fir­ings and res­ig­na­tions. The act­ing DHS deputy sec­re­tary is the head of the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

And it cre­ates yet an­other top-level va­cancy in Trump’s Cab­i­net — at the de­part­ment re­spon­si­ble not only for im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment but also for help­ing states se­cure elec­tions.

“We have worked well to­gether with Bor­der Cross­ings be­ing Way down,” Trump tweeted of McAleenan.

McAleenan tweeted that he had worked — with the pres­i­dent’s sup­port — to help stem the bor­der cri­sis and that he would help en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion at DHS.

“I want to thank the Pres­i­dent for the op­por­tu­nity to serve the men and

women of the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity,” McAleenan wrote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called McAleenan’s de­par­ture “the lat­est sign of this Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s failed lead­er­ship, which has wors­ened the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion at the bor­der, and in­jected pain and tragedy into count­less lives.”

McAleenan took over in April after Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen quit. Trump said he’d name a re­place­ment in the com­ing week, the fifth leader of DHS in two years.

The 240,000-per­son de­part­ment is tasked with elec­tion se­cu­rity and cy­ber­se­cu­rity, disas­ter re­sponse and even the Se­cret Service. But in Trump’s world, Home­land Se­cu­rity means one thing: im­mi­gra­tion. The pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture is­sue makes the de­part­ment his fo­cus and his ire. Bal­anc­ing a White House ea­ger to push ma­jor changes with the re­al­ity on the ground is a con­stant chal­lenge.

McAleenan, who has years of ex­pe­ri­ence with bor­der is­sues, was seen in Trump’s cir­cle as some­one who could get con­trol over the cri­sis, de­spite his stance as a mod­er­ate Demo­crat who pushed for aid to be re­stored to Cen­tral Amer­i­can na­tions.

He was among those be­hind the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s widely ma­ligned prac­tice of sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies at the bor­der last year, though McAleenan later said he re­gret­ted the pol­icy be­cause it lost the pub­lic trust.

He also ex­panded a pro­gram where asy­lum seek­ers are forced to wait their claims out in Mex­ico; more than 42,000 mi­grants have been sub­jected to it. And most re­cently, the ad­min­is­tra­tion made mi­grants in­el­i­gi­ble for asy­lum if they crossed through a third coun­try on their way to the U.S.

And he bro­kered ma­jor agree­ments with Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries on asy­lum and bor­der se­cu­rity — some­thing oth­ers were un­able to do.

Alan Bersin, who worked closely with McAleenan in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said he did his job ef­fec­tively in three ad­min­is­tra­tions, Repub­li­can and Demo­crat, but was done in by a po­lar­iz­ing en­vi­ron­ment and lack of White House sup­port.

“He did his best as a pro­fes­sional pub­lic ser­vant but those qual­i­ties are not prized in this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said Bersin, an as­sis­tant Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary for in­ter­na­tional af­fairs and Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion com­mis­sioner un­der Obama.

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