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  • Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan reacts while protesters interrupt his remarks at the Migration Policy Institute annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington, U.S., October 7, 2019

    Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan reacts while protesters interrupt his remarks at the Migration Policy Institute annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington, U.S., October 7, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 October 2019

Kevin McAleenan, is stepping down and a new acting chief of the agency would be named next week.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Friday that acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kevin McAleenan, is stepping down and a new acting chief of the agency would be named next week.

McAleenan became the fourth person to lead the agency under Trump. McAleenan was appointed to the post in April after the president asked then-secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, to resign.

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Prior to assuming the role, McAleenan served as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one of the agencies under DHS jurisdiction.

"Kevin now, after many years in government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"I will be announcing the new Acting Secretary next week. Many wonderful candidates," he said.

McAleenan's departure comes just days he was prevented from giving a keynote speech at the Migration Policy Institute annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington by protesters who booed him off stage.

Trump, who has made cracking down on immigrants and refugees a signature issue of his presidency and now 2020 re-election bid, said he and McAleenan had "worked well together with Border Crossings being way down."

Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, said McAleenan's departure is a troubling sign for the sprawling department, whose responsibilities include border security, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and emergency management.

"This will only add to the chaos for a Department where there are chronically too many leadership vacancies and positions held by unconfirmed, 'acting' officials," said Thompson in a statement Friday.

In a statement, McAleenan said during his six-month tenure DHS had "made tremendous progress mitigating the border security and humanitarian crisis we faced this year."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said this week that arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border fell in September for the fourth month in the row. According to government figures, just over 52,000 migrants were either apprehended or encountered at the nation’s southwest border in September, down by nearly 65 percent from a peak in May of 144,000.

Under McAleenan’s tenure, the administration proposed a measure to deny the potential for legal resident status to immigrants who partake in social assistance programs, such as food and healthcare services for the poor.

The outgoing DHS director also oversaw the administration’s new rule to force asylum seekers, arriving mainly from impoverished Central American countries where violent crime and corruption are systemic, to wait for their trial in Mexico where they are vulnerable to human traffickers and further violence. McAleenan also helped pressure Mexico into cracking down and deporting migrants in their territory, or face hefty export fees for products entering the U.S.

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