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Kevin McAleenan to step down as acting Homeland Security secretary

In this image, Kevin wears a suit and tie and speaks
Kevin McAleenan delivers remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations on Sept. 23, 2019. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump announced on Friday evening that acting Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan will leave his position and move into "the private sector" after 6 months in the role.

The big picture: Trump has been wary of McAleenan, whom he associates with the Obama administration, officials told Axios in August. McAleenan, the former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, took over the acting role following Kirstjen Nielsen’s abrupt resignation.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Stef Kight: Many in the administration and conservative circles have distrusted McAleenan's commitment to Trump’s immigration agenda — despite significant declines in border numbers and McAleenan's role in implementing several big immigration policies, such as the recently blocked public charge rule and asylum deals with Central American nations.

Flashback: While in the role, McAleenan signed an asylum agreement with El Salvador to force Central American migrants who pass through the country to first seek asylum there or be sent back to the country once they reach the U.S.

  • On the Trump administration's recent proposal to cut the number of refugees permitted to resettle in the U.S. next year to just 18,000, McAleenan said the refugee cap would allow DHS "to focus on addressing the ongoing crisis at the southern border, reducing a staggering asylum backlog that unfairly delays relief for those with meritorious claims..."

The bottom line: No president in recent history has started his tenure with as many extended Cabinet vacancies as Trump, who has been happy to fill many positions with "acting" officials, saying it "gives me more flexibility."