With Kirstjen Nielsen leaving her position as the head of Homeland Security, President Donald Trump has announced her replacement. Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection, will replace Nielsen as the acting secretary of the department, according to The New York Times.
“I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job,” Trump tweeted after announcing that Nielsen will leave her position.
Nielsen’s departure marks a tumultuous time in the department’s history, which has seen itself muddled in a quagmire of allegations and counter-allegations about Homeland Security’s overreach. After having taken up the job in late 2017, Nielsen was responsible for overseeing the influx of immigrants in addition to other duties. While she faced a number of protests for the alleged ill-treatment of immigrants, including children, at the border, the president appeared to be generally pleased with her work. But Sunday’s sudden departure means that not all was right behind the scenes.
In her resignation letter, Nielsen wrote that she hoped the new secretary will “have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse.”
Meanwhile, McAleenan, who has a long history in border security, has a tough job on his hands. He has a law degree from the University of Chicago and used to be a practicing lawyer before he started his work for the government. He worked in various capacities in border security before becoming its deputy commissioner in 2014 during the Obama administration. A year later, he was awarded with the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Rank Award.
As well as trying to oversee an agency that has become the subject of Trump’s anger in recent months over an increase of migrants illegally entering America, he will also have to juggle the expectations of Democrats, who have accused the agency of abdicating its duties under Nielsen.
Being the nation’s top border security official, he was responsible for overseeing the controversial “zero tolerance” policy enacted by the Trump administration, which led to family separations. Although McAleenan has claimed that the country was in need of better policy, he reiterated that his job was to enforce laws — not make them.
Last year in an interview, McAleenan had said that “a better system would allow us to keep families together for the entirety of the immigration proceeding, which takes an average of 45 days.”