Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan Steps Down

October 11, 2019 Updated: October 13, 2019

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is stepping down, and a new acting chief of the agency is set to be named next week, President Donald Trump announced late Oct. 11.

“Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down,” Trump announced on Twitter.

“Kevin now, after many years in Government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector. Congratulations, Kevin, on a job well done! I will be announcing the new Acting Secretary next week. Many wonderful candidates!”

Shortly following the president’s announcement, McAleenan issued a farewell statement on Twitter.

“I want to thank the President for the opportunity to serve alongside the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security,” McAleenan said.

“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.”

McAleenan said he will work with the White House and DHS leadership teams on a smooth transition.

In April, McAleenan became the fourth person to lead the agency under Trump after Kirstjen Nielsen resigned. Gen. John Kelly was the initial secretary under Trump; Elaine Duke served as acting secretary after Kelly was appointed White House chief of staff.

Before becoming acting secretary, McAleenan served as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency under the DHS.

In late September, McAleenan announced an end to “catch-and-release”—a practice under which illegal immigrants were released into the United States while awaiting their immigration court proceedings. A vast majority of them didn’t show up for their court hearings.

“What we’re doing with Central American families now that’s ending the catch-and-release process is that if they don’t have a fear or claim, they’re going to be repatriated in a streamline fashion, or if they do have a fear or claim, asked to wait under the Migrant Protection Protocols in Mexico,” he said on Sept. 23.

“So they will not be currently held on the U.S. side of the border, even in the family residential centers, because we’re not able right now to complete an immigration proceeding, while in the 21 days we have by court order.”

In March, Border Patrol began releasing families directly from its custody into the United States, with a notice to appear in court, after facilities became overrun, with tens of thousands still on the way to the border. Border Patrol apprehended more than 811,000 illegal aliens at the southern border in fiscal year 2019, according to CBP data.

McAleenan said apprehensions of Central Americans have dropped more than 70 percent since Trump threatened Mexico with 5 percent tariffs if it didn’t do more to address the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. southern border.

The CBP said this week that arrests at the U.S.–Mexico border fell in September for the fourth month in a row. According to CBP, there were just over 52,000 migrants either apprehended or encountered at the southwest border in September, down almost 65 percent from a peak in May of more than 144,000. Of the May apprehensions, 72 percent were of unaccompanied children and family units.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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