President Donald Trump on Sunday named Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
“I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!” Trump tweeted on Sunday evening after accepting the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen as DHS secretary.
Trump reportedly had wanted to replace Nielsen since late last year and had grown increasingly impatient with her department’s response to the swelling flows of Central American migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.
McAleenan became CBP commissioner on March 20, 2018. He had previously served as acting commissioner since the start of the Trump administration, after serving as deputy commissioner from 2014 to 2017, and prior to that, as assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations and area port director of the Los Angeles International Airport.
McAleenan has become a face to the public in recent weeks with the arrival of increasing numbers of Central Americans at the U.S.-Mexico border who are seeking asylum. On March 27, he declared that the country’s immigration control system along the U.S. southern border was at a “breaking point” and requested the reassignment of up to 750 CBP officers to assist with immigration duties there.
With the reassignment of the CBP officers immediately taking effect, U.S. ports of entry across the southern border quickly experienced reduced cargo processing lanes, larger truck queues and weekend day closures at small border crossings.
Trump had even threatened to close the border entirely early last week, which exacerbated American shippers’ concerns that their deeply integrated supply chains with companies in Mexico would suddenly be crippled. The president backed off the threat by Thursday.
It’s uncertain how long McAleenan will serve as acting DHS secretary. Longtime CBP official Robert Perez currently serves as the agency’s deputy commissioner.
CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the U.S. with 60,000 employees and myriad regulatory responsibilities, including anti-terrorism and preventing illegal drug trafficking, securing and facilitating legitimate trade and travel, and protecting the country’s agriculture from pests and disease.