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Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan with El Salvador's Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill, Oct. 28. Photo: DHS

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan received the National Order of José Matías Delgado award from the government of El Salvador on Monday morning, a thank you for his key role in advocating for Salvadorans in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program.

The big picture: McAleenan, whose last day as acting DHS secretary is Thursday, is married to a Salvadoran native and has sought to blunt the humanitarian impact of some of the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies, even as his department has carried them out. The White House has yet to announce his replacement.

What's next: DHS' undersecretary of the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, Chad Wolf, has been seen as one leading contender to step in, at least in the near term. The White House's personnel office informed Trump that one favored candidate, USCIS acting director Ken Cuccinelli, could not legally take the acting position.

  • "There's been no one more committed to the DHS mission and the president's agenda than Chad," a senior administration official told Axios.
  • But some conservative hardliners have pushed back against Wolf, who they don't see as sufficiently committed to Trump's immigration agenda.
  • "If Wolf’s background as a lobbyist for employers of H-1B workers doesn’t disqualify him, then his time as chief of staff to Kirstjen Nielsen, who utterly failed at the job, should," Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations at NumbersUSA, an organization that advocates for stricter limits on immigration, told Axios in a statement.

Trump could still nominate Cuccinelli for the permanent position of DHS secretary, launching a Senate confirmation process.

  • But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear he does not support Cuccinelli for any administration position. Cuccinelli was president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has backed McConnell's primary challengers.

Between the lines: McAleenan is getting a warmer send-off from El Salvador than from the U.S. The president and his team have at times viewed McAleenan warily because he served during the Obama administration. Trump has been more enthusiastic about personalities like Cuccinelli and CBP acting commissioner Mark Morgan.

  • Meanwhile, McAleenan was subpoenaed by the House Homeland Security Committee and received blowback from panel Democrats for saying he wouldn't testify in his final week on the job.

Go deeper: DHS grants hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans an extra year to leave U.S

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Numbers USA seeks reduced immigration and not an outright ban.

Go deeper

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.