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As acting DHS chief, McAleenan pushed Trump border policies

Kevin McAleenan is leaving his post as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security after six months on the job, President Trump announced Friday. During his short tenure, McAleenan oversaw an agency that has moved to drastically curb entry of asylum seekers into the United States. Zolan Kanno-Youngs, homeland security reporter for The New York Times, joins Megan Thompson to discuss.

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  • Megan Thompson:

    Joining me now for more on this developing story is Zolan Kanno-Youngs, homeland security reporter for The New York Times.

    Zolan, thank you very much for being with us.

  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs:

    Thanks for having me.

  • Megan Thompson:

    I wanted to first ask you about McAleenan's tenure his accomplishments. I mean, during his six months on the job he largely delivered what President Trump wanted done at the southern border, right?

  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs:

    Yes. I mean you have to remember the time in which Kevin McAleenan assumed the position as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had just been forced out of the position by the president, who was infuriated over the number of border crossings occurring up the southwest border. In May, there were about 144, more than 144,000 enforcement actions at the southwest border. Now look at where we are, those apprehensions have declined by more than 60 percent.

    Things have relatively calmed down at the border, but at the same time there was friction between him and the president and White House adviser Stephen Miller, known as the architect of the president's immigration agenda. In the end, Kevin McAleenan, while he did bring border crossings down, he did take issue with some of the initiatives that others around him wanted to push.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Can you talk a little bit more about that? I mean, what are some of those initiatives that he was a little bit more resistant to during his time?

  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs:

    Well, you may remember that earlier this year there was a push by particularly the White House as well as Mark Morgan who was leading ICE at the time is now leading Customs and Border Protection to launch a nationwide sweep up of migrant families who had recently crossed the border, the ICE raids, as they were called at that time. Behind closed doors, Kevin McAleenan and didn't want that to happen — the idea that the president would cut State Department aid to Central American countries. This was somebody,, Kevin McAleenan who believed in addressing the root causes of, the reasons of which people leave Central American countries. He believed in State Department aid and was disappointed when that was cut. At the same time, Kevin McAleenan did oversee the Department of Homeland Security when some of the more aggressive initiatives were implemented and expanded.

  • Megan Thompson:

    He was an acting secretary. He was never nominated for full confirmation. What's the impact on the Department of Homeland Security to be without a permanent head for so long?

  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs:

    Not just him either, you have to look — so the head of the Department of Homeland Security: him, acting position; head of USCIS, Ken Cuccinelli, acting position; Mark Morgan, the head of Customs and Border Protection, acting position; head of ICE right now, Matt Alberts, acting positions. And what that has done to the agency if you talk to career officials in the agency it has created a sense where there is an instability of leadership right now. And remember we're also talking about DHS and DHS was created in the wake of the September 11 attacks and it was not created to be solely a immigration enforcement agency, which many would say is what it has become under President Trump. And it is responsible for many things outside of that, whether it be cybersecurity, disaster relief, as well as securing the country and information sharing as in regards to terrorism.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Any ideas about who might be tapped next for the homeland security job?

  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs:

    There's a lot of names that have been floated. I mean it's well-known that individuals like Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Morgan display the rhetoric that pleases the president. Let's remember how they got the job — they went on Fox News and advocated for the president's policies. I mean previously a vacancy act that we thought would be strictly followed. However we've been told that there were rules changed by the White House with the cooperation of senior Homeland Security officials to make it so that it would not need to go to the next person in line. That would be right now David Borkowski, who is the deputy secretary, who is in an acting position. The president is going to choose who is going to choose. I can tell you that whoever he does choose, I think it will be a while before that person is nominated, if they're nominated at all.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Zolan Kanno-Youngs, of The New York Times. Thank you so much for being with us.

  • Zolan Kanno-Youngs:

    Thank you.

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