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Immigrant rights advocates are remembering Kevin McAleenan as anything but 'level headed'

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: U.S. acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan briefs President Donald Trump about Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office at the White House September 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump was also briefed by U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz and Deputy Assistant to the President and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Peter Brown. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Media coverage of acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan’s resignation from the department has sought to portray him as “a level head” career official who was at times supposedly at odds with the policies and antics of white supremacist ghouls like Stephen Miller. “In recent months,” The New York Times claimed, “Mr. McAleenan grew increasingly irritated by the harsh language used by agency officials installed by the White House.” 

Immigrant rights advocates and their allies are remembering the former secretary quite differently. McAleenan “helped execute policy that ripped kids from their parent’s arms and sent pregnant women and children to violently dangerous places to wait for asylum,” tweeted California Rep. Nanette Barragán. “Some women have been raped and sexually assaulted as a result of this hideous policy.” That hideous policy, Remain in Mexico, has become the newest humanitarian crisis at the border.

Under this inhumanity, 50,000 asylum-seekers—including thousands of children—have been forced to wait out their cases in Mexico, many in squalid encampments  and others in shelters that are being targeted by armed kidnappers for extortion. McAleenan had the gall to claim this week that the policy has “successfully provided protections” to these families, but this is among the administration’s most atrocious lies yet: Human Rights First has identified 340 instances of violence against returned asylum-seekers, including rape.

McAleenan also co-authored the “zero tolerance” memo that his predecessor Kirstjen Nielsen claimed never existed but still managed to implement the state-sanctioned kidnapping of thousands of children, including babies as young as four months old, at the southern border. “The decision has gnawed at him,” The Washington Post claimed earlier this month in what was was clearly McAleenan rolling out his rehabilitation campaign, “and to date he is among the only administration officials who speak about the policy with remorse.” 

But the words and alleged feelings of remorse don’t match the actions, because families have still been separated at the border under his watch. In fact, the administration was in court just last month claiming officials shouldn’t have to be bound to a rigid policy dictating when a child might have to be removed from a family. Because there’s been no such policy, officials have separated another 1,000 families since a judge’s June 2018 court order, and for reasons as petty as a dirty diaper. “The cruelty,” tweeted America’s Voice leader Frank Sharry. “The deep, ruthless and relentless cruelty.”

“Under McAleenan,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Merkley, “cruel and dangerous policies” targeting “families fleeing persecution have expanded further than ever.” That includes assisting Miller in stomping on the U.S. right to asylum by implementing “international deals that would force migrants seeking asylum to return to Central American countries struggling with high levels of crime and violence,” Vox reported. These policies will kill people, and we know that because they already have.

“We’ll never know all the outlandish policies McAleenan probably had to avert, redirect, or quietly defuse during his tenure at D.H.S.,” The New Yorker reported. “Maybe,” tweeted Michelle Brane of the Women's Refugee Commission. “But how people can call the guy who implemented family separation, and closed the US border to asylum seekers, endangering the lives of thousands of people, level headed is beyond me. That is level headed cruelty and lawlessness.”

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