President Trump revealed in a tweet Sunday that McAleenan will become the acting head of Homeland Security, a sprawling department of 240,000 people, following the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Nielsen had traveled to the U.S. -Mexico border on Friday with Trump to participate in a roundtable with border officers and local law enforcement. Two children in US detention died late a year ago and hundreds of families are still being separated.
Nielsen had grown increasingly frustrated by what she saw as a lack of support from other departments and increased meddling by Trump aides on hard immigration issues, according to three people familiar with details of her resignation.
After Nielsen's abrupt resignation on Sunday, Trump publicly announced she would be leaving and named Kevin McAleenan as the new acting secretary, but Nielsen later followed up on Twitter, saying she will stay on until Wednesday to "assist with an orderly transition". She announced on her Twitter account: "To the fearless and dedicated men and women of the DHS [Department of Homeland Security], I submitted my resignation to the President this evening".
White House officials, Democratic lawmakers and legal experts agree that whatever Trump wants next is unlikely to be something Nielsen's successor can do swiftly - especially while working for an immigration hard-liner who is growing more and more frustrated with the increased number of attempted border crossings and apprehensions there. He takes over as US border officials estimated that 100,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border in March, the highest level in a decade. On Thursday, the United States president unexpectedly withdrew his nomination for the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), citing an aim to pursue a "tougher stance".
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"When even the most radical voices in the administration aren't radical enough for President Trump, you know he's completely lost touch with the American people", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
She is believed to have been pushed from the role after a senior administration official said the president has asked for her resignation. The president and Stephen Miller, his hard-line immigration adviser, have long grumbled privately about the secretary's insufficiently brutal approach to the surge in migrant families across the border.
Thousands of young children were taken from their parents and held in separation facilities.
Nielsen told reporters outside her Alexandria, Virginia home Monday that she continues to support the president's goal of securing the border. In all, this declaration paves the way for the U.S. president to acquire about $8 billion on the construction of the 376.5 kilometers long (234 miles) wall on the border with its southern neighbor.
And when participants in a January 2018 White House session on immigration quoted Trump as referring to African nations as "shithole" countries, Nielsen came to the president's defense.