Kevin McAleenan

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Kevin McAleenan
Kevin McAleenan official photo.jpg
Acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security
De facto, unlawful
In office
April 11, 2019 – November 13, 2019
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyDavid Pekoske (acting)
Preceded byKirstjen Nielsen
Succeeded byChad Wolf (acting)
Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection
In office
March 20, 2018 – April 11, 2019
Acting: January 20, 2017 – March 20, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyRandolph Alles (acting)
Ron Vitiello
Robert Perez (acting)
Preceded byGil Kerlikowske
Succeeded byJohn P. Sanders (acting)
Personal details
Kevin Kealoha McAleenan

(1971-09-05) September 5, 1971 (age 49)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
EducationAmherst College (BA)
University of Chicago (JD)
AwardsService to America Award (2005)
Presidential Rank Award (2015)

Kevin Kealoha McAleenan (born September 5, 1971)[1] is an American attorney and government official who unlawfully[2][3] served as the acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security from April to November 2019.[3][4]

McAleenan previously served as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner.[5][6] President Donald Trump designated McAleenan as Acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security in April 2019. He resigned on October 11, 2019, with Trump saying McAleenan wanted to "spend more time with his family and go to the private sector."[7] The Government Accountability Office later ruled that McAleenan's appointment as Acting Secretary had been improper.[2]

Early life[edit]

Kevin McAleenan was born on September 5, 1971, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a mother of Finnish descent and a father of Irish descent.[8] He received an undergraduate degree from Amherst College. He then received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School and practiced law in the state of California.[9]

Early career[edit]

McAleenan practiced law in the private sector from 1998 until 2001, when terrorist attacks that September motivated him to apply to work for the FBI. He was recruited to help start up the new CBP Office of Antiterrorism, eventually becoming its executive director.[1]

In 2006, he became CBP's area director of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).[10] During his time as the port director of LAX, he was responsible for the security operations for that airport as well as 17 other airport facilities.[9] After two years in private consulting, McAleenan returned to CBP in 2010, leading field operations. In 2011 McAleenan became the assistant commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations.[9][11] In this position he was in charge of airport operations and responsible for securing the US border while ensuring lawful trade and travel at 329 ports of entry in the United States, as well as 70 locations in more than 40 countries.[9]

McAleenan served as deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection from 2014 to 2017.[citation needed]

Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection[edit]


McAleenan served as acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection from January 2017 to March 20, 2018.[12]

President Donald Trump nominated McAleenan to assume the position of commissioner in a permanent capacity in May 2017.[13][14] McAleenan's previous nomination was supported by officials from both the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama administrations, a number of whom signed a letter to Congress expressing "enthusiastic support" for the "supremely qualified" McAleenan.[15] Trump officially submitted the nomination to the Senate on May 22.[16] The Senate confirmed McAleenan's nomination on March 19, 2018, by a vote of 77–19.[17] He was sworn in on March 20, 2018.[12][18]


In August 2018, McAleenan was interviewed by The New York Times and said he was aware that it is illegal to detain families longer than 90 days. He also said he felt Trump's executive order was an "important recalibration" and that "well-intended efforts are not going to succeed if they lose public interest." McAleenan supports U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying it does "critical work." He has said that there is no intent for indefinite or permanent family separation, and acknowledged that the CBP's job is to enforce the law.[8]

In September 2018, McAleenan told the USA Today editorial board he planned to spend more time "analyzing ways to modernize border patrol facilities" and intended to travel to the southwest United States, where most of the migrant children were being held.[19]

On June 28, 2019, McAleenan criticized media reports of conditions for detained migrants at the United States-Mexico border. He claimed that, contrary to reports, detained children had "appropriate meals" and "showers as soon as they can be provided." But a July 2, 2019 Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report found that some detention facilities in Rio Grande Valley had violated CBP standards by not granting children access to showers or hot meals.[20][21]

Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security[edit]

McAleenan being questioned by US Senator Kamala Harris during his March 2019 testimony at the United States Senate.

President Trump designated McAleenan as Acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security on April 8, 2019, following Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation.[22][23][24]

McAleenan resigned from the post on October 11, 2019. Trump announced McAleenan's departure on Twitter, saying that McAleenan wanted to "spend more time with his family and go to the private sector." CNN reported that White House officials tried to talk him out of resigning, but McAleenan felt he had accomplished all he could as acting secretary. Trump also announced that he would name McAleenan's successor the following week;[7] his successor, Chad Wolf, was sworn in on November 13, 2019.[25]

On August 14, 2020, the Government Accountability Office released a finding that "upon the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the express terms of the then existing designation required the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to assume that title instead of the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Kevin McAleenan." The official who should have been Acting Secretary at the time of Nielsen's resignation is Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Christopher C. Krebs. This finding also meant that McAleenan's successor Chad Wolf and his Deputy Acting Secretary Ken Cuccinelli did not appropriately obtain their positions.[2]


In 2005, McAleenan received the Service to America Medal, Call to Service Award for his leadership and help in developing and implementing a comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy for border security after September 11, 2001. In 2015, McAleenan was awarded the Presidential Rank Award, the highest civil service award in the United States.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Matt Bewig (January 14, 2018). "Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Who Is Kevin McAleenan?". AllGov.
  2. ^ a b c "Legality of Service of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Service of Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security". U. S. Government Accountability Office. August 14, 2020. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Judge: DHS head didn't have authority to suspend DACA". AP NEWS. November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  4. ^ Beech, Eric (October 11, 2019). "Trump says acting Homeland Security Secretary McAleenan is stepping down". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  5. ^ "U.S. Customs and Border Protection:Leadership/Organization". Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Miles, Frank (April 7, 2019). "Kevin McAleenan, new acting DHS boss, has long record in border security". Fox News. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Tapper, Jake (October 11, 2019). "Kevin McAleenan resigns as acting homeland security secretary". CNN. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Audie Cornish. "Kevin McAleenan Says the Border Patrol Doesn't Make the Laws". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d "Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  10. ^ Kulisch, Eric (April 3, 2017). "Trump picks McAleenan as permanent CBP commissioner". American Shipper. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  11. ^ Beavers, Olivia (March 30, 2017). "Trump nominates officials for VA, border control". The Hill. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Fortin, Jacey (April 7, 2019). "Kevin McAleenan, Top U.S. Border Enforcement Officer, Is Named Acting Head of Homeland Security". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  13. ^ Knaub, Kelly (March 31, 2017). "Trump To Officially Nominate McAleenan For Customs Head". Law360. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  14. ^ Trump, Donald J. (April 7, 2019). "....I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!". @realdonaldtrump. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  15. ^ Levine, Mike (April 7, 2017). "Trump's pick to lead border security wins support from Bush- and Obama-era officials". ABC News. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  16. ^ Bradley, Brian (May 24, 2017). "Trump Sends McAleenan CBP Nomination to Senate". International Trade Today. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  17. ^ Dinan, Stephen (March 19, 2018). "Senate approves Trump's border chief". The Washington Times. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  18. ^ Kirstjen Nielsen [@SecNielsen] (March 20, 2018). "Excited and proud to swear in @CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan today. Thank you @SenateMajLdr @senorrinhatch & @RonWyden for your support of his nomination (unanimous out comm and overwhelming on the floor). Remarkably qualified and is already on the job! Great day for DHS" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  19. ^ a b Alan Gomez (September 17, 2018). "CBP chief to inspect Border Patrol facilities housing minors". USA Today. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  20. ^ "Management Alert – DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley (Redacted)" (PDF). Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General. July 2, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  21. ^ Kiely, Eugene; Farley, Robert; Robertson, Lori (July 3, 2019). "Confusion at the Border". Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  22. ^ Haberman, Maggie; Weiland, Noah (April 7, 2019). "Kirstjen Nielsen Out as Trump's Homeland Security Secretary". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  23. ^ Grisales, Claudia; Naylor, Brian (July 18, 2019)."Homeland Security Chief: Agency Has Made 'Significant Strides' On Border, Migrants". NPR. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  24. ^ "Kevin K. McAleenan". August 1, 2019. United States Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  25. ^ Miroff, Nick (November 13, 2019). "Chad Wolf sworn in as acting Department of Homeland Security chief, Ken Cuccinelli to be acting deputy". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 13, 2019.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gil Kerlikowske
Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Acting: 2017–2018
Succeeded by
John P. Sanders
Preceded by
Kirstjen Nielsen
United States Secretary of Homeland Security

Succeeded by
Chad Wolf