Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan openly defied President Trump and his “America First” immigration agenda on multiple fronts in an interview with the Washington Post.
Zero Tolerance Policy
McAleenan, who served previously as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner, aired his grievances with various issues in the Trump administration to the Post, at one point declaring regret over the “Zero Tolerance” policy used at the United States-Mexico border last year.
Trump’s Zero Tolerance was designed to prosecute all border crossers, even those arriving with children, at the southern border and to ensure adult border crossers were not merely released into the U.S. interior so long as they arrived with a minor.
McAleenan said the policy “went too far,” according to the Post:
“How can we let these smugglers victimize these desperate families?” he said, describing his thinking at the time. “How can we let this flow continue to grow, with more people being victims and more kids dying on this journey, and not do everything in our power to try to stop it?” [Emphasis added]
“When you see the impact in the six-week period on 2,500-or-so families and understand the emotional pain for those children, it’s not worth it,” he said. “It’s the one part of this whole thing that I couldn’t ever be part of again.” [Emphasis added]
McAleenan even defies Trump and the administration’s agenda down to the language that he refuses to use in regards to border crossers and visa overstayers.
While Trump and his officials use the accurate legal term “illegal alien” to describe an individual who has illegally entered the U.S., McAleenan said he will not use the term, opting for “migrants” and “vulnerable families” instead because he said the term “illegal alien” comes with “political, emotional, and racial” overtones.
“I think the words matter a lot. If you alienate half of your audience by your use of your terminology, it’s going to hamper your ability to ever win an argument,” McAleenan said of not using the term.
‘Battle to Keep DHS’
McAleenan discussed his effort for what the Post described as the “battle to keep DHS.” Inside DHS, McAleenan acknowledged that he wants to prevent Trump’s closest allies in the agency — such as Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli and Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan — from taking full control, telling the Post:
“What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “That’s uncomfortable, as the accountable, senior figure.” [Emphasis added]
The messaging used by McAleenan is far from the “Law and Order” and “Hire American” message often used by the president. In his interview with the Post, McAleenan described the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants,” saying the country needs “the energy that diverse peoples bring to our economy and our society.”
Compare that to Cuccinelli’s Twitter account, which he has used to call out sanctuary jurisdictions for shielding illegal aliens, raising awareness about the American victims of illegal alien crime, and the need to crack down on asylum fraud.
‘Ignore the President’
One of the longest rumors surrounding McAleenan in the Washington, D.C. beltway is that he is a Democrat who did not support Trump. When specifically asked by the Post if he still considers himself a Democrat, McAleenan evaded the question.
“We are apolitical,” McAleenan said of DHS. “What you privately register as or what you’ve donated as have no bearing on how you conduct yourself in professional capacity.”
Multiple reports, though, would suggest McAleenan is not on board with Trump’s agenda. A New York Times report this week described one instance where, in the face of soaring illegal immigration levels in March, Trump told Border Patrol agents to turn all nationals arriving at the border away.
McAleenan, the report alleges, privately instructed agents to ignore Trump and continue admitting and processing nationals at the border:
They were right. On a trip to California late in the week, Mr. Trump turned to Mr. McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection chief, with a new idea: He wanted him to stop letting migrants cross the border at all, with no exceptions. If you get into any trouble for it, Mr. Trump told him, I’ll pardon you. [Emphasis added]
After the president left the room, Mr. McAleenan told the agents to ignore the president. You absolutely do not have the authority to stop processing migrants altogether, he warned. [Emphasis added]
In a more recent case, McAleenan is accused of having leaked raids scheduled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in order to sabotage and stop the plan. The ICE raids would have arrested hundreds of illegal aliens who have already been ordered deported.
Former ICE Director and Trump ally Tom Homan told Fox News at the time that McAleenan was “resisting” the raids and accused him of leaking the details to the establishment media. Since then, federal officials confirmed with Breitbart News that an investigation has been opened internally at DHS to find out who ordered the details of the raids to be leaked.
With the establishment media, McAleenan has taken a more pleasant approach than most of Trump’s officials.
In May, McAleenan hosted CNN‘s Jake Tapper for a private meeting, as Breitbart News exclusively reported. In August, when asked about ICE raids conducted in Mississippi, McAleenan conceded to NBC‘s Chuck Todd that the “timing was unfortunate” because they occurred before a shooting in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman with white supremacist views allegedly targeted and murdered 20 people.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.