Kevin McAleenan

Kevin McAleenan

Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

also Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection


McAleenan led U.S. Customs and Border Protection as the agency played a key role in separating families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.


Separating Families

  • McAleenan co-authored a memo that led to the Trump’s Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy—a policy that resulted in the forced separation of families. [Vox, 10/11/19]
  • McAleenan oversaw DHS while border patrol officers came under fire for joking about deaths of migrant detainees.  [NPR, 07/02/19; Vox, 10/11/19]
  • McAleenan supervised CBP’s separation of over 2,800 migrant children from their families. [USA Today, 07/18/19]

Anti-Democratic Efforts

  • After being invalidly appointed to his post as Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, McAleenan “altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure.” [Politico, 08/14/20]

News Coverage and Headlines 

  • “While avoiding fire-breathing ideological rhetoric and keeping a relatively low profile, McAleenan played a critical role executing some of Trump’s most controversial policies. As Customs and Border Protection commissioner, he helped put in practice a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on illegal entries that caused thousands of children to be separated from their families at the border. He also oversaw the rapid spread of a practice to limit the number of asylum seekers who can enter the country at border crossings with Mexico, which he blames on processing constraints.” [Associated Press, 04/09/19]
  • “Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan claimed that children in CBP custody are receiving ‘appropriate meals’ and showers. But the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office said it visited five facilities and found children at three of them ‘had no access to showers’ and ‘two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals.’” [, 07/03/19]
  • “DHS also has pressed for Health and Human Services to open for children’s shelters so they could be transferred quicker out of Border Patrol stations, which are cold concrete holding cells not built for long-term stays. That’s why it was particularly noteworthy that McAleenan would flatly deny a June report by The Associated Press that conditions at border facilities had deteriorated. At one border facility in Clint, Texas, independent inspectors alleged that older children took care of younger children and there was no soap or water to wash their hands after using the bathroom. The AP report that some 250 infants, children and teens were locked up for weeks without adequate food, water and sanitation triggered a public outcry and eventually prompted dozens of Democratic lawmakers, including several presidential contenders, to tour the facility.” [ABC News, 07/04/19]