DHS Chief Defies Trump – Refuses to Say ‘Illegal Alien’ Because ‘Racial Overtones’ Too Hurtful

Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan expressed reservations about the Trump administration’s immigration policy in a recent interview with The Washington Post, revealing he is “uncomfortable” with his agency’s messaging and said he does not use the phrase “illegal alien” because of the term’s “racial overtones.”

“What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time,” McAleenan told The Post in an interview published Tuesday.

“That’s uncomfortable, as the accountable, senior figure.”

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The 48-year-0ld immigration official was referencing his resistance to DHS being used as an instrument for “partisan immigration agenda,” as The Post put it.

According to The Post, despite clashing with administration figures in DHS and in the White House, McAleenan has defended some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies, citing the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border to make his case.

But he has expressed regret about his role in the “zero tolerance” policy at the border, saying separations “went too far.”

“When you see the impact in the six-week period on 2,500-or-so families and understand the emotional pain for those children, it’s not worth it,” he said. “It’s the one part of this whole thing that I couldn’t ever be part of again.”

Senior administration officials told The Post McAleenan indicated he would resign if asked to do it again.

McAleenan also communicated his distaste for the term “illegal aliens.” He avoids using the term, and instead refers to “migrants” and “vulnerable families.”

“I think the words matter a lot,” he said. “If you alienate half of your audience by your use of your terminology, it’s going to hamper your ability to ever win an argument.”

McAleenan took over as acting DHS secretary in April, replacing his predecessor Kirstjen Nielsen. He’s been dogged by suspicions of softness on immigration policy.

Some Democrats, including former-President Barack Obama DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, cheered his appointment when it was announced earlier this year.

The Washington Examiner reported Tuesday that an anonymous senior White House official accused McAleenan of systematically removing Trump political staff and replacing it “with a group of career employees who have more in common with the Democrat 2020 field than they ever will this administration.”

In June, the Examiner reported that McAleenan has donated solely to Democratic causes for years.

Also in June, current and former administration officials told the Examiner that McAleenan had leaked plans regarding a major Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation because of his opposition to the raid.

The Post broached the question of the homeland security secretary’s party affiliation directly in its interview with McAleenan.

Asked if he still considered himself a Democrat, McAleenan said: “We are apolitical.”

MORE: NYC Makes It Illegal to Call Someone an ‘Illegal Alien’

“What you privately register as or what you’ve donated as have no bearing on how you conduct yourself in professional capacity,” he added.

Cover image:

  • Kevin McAleenan.: WikiMedia Commons

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