Kirstjen Nielsen is out as Homeland Security secretary and, for now at least, Kevin McAleenan is in. On Sunday, President Trump tweeted that McAleenan, currently the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will take over DHS in an acting capacity. But given what we’re learning about the career government official — apparently McAleenan isn’t a wild-eyed anti-immigration hawk — he’s likely not long for the job.
Indeed, less than 24 hours after Nielsen’s resignation, the short list to replace her is not very short. According to multiple reports, Trump is looking for someone who will take a harder line on immigration than Nielsen, who is best known for enforcing the barbaric family-separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. As Trump said last Friday when he pulled his nominee to lead ICE, he wants to bring about a “tougher” era of immigration policy and enforcement.
Unsurprisingly, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is reportedly behind the shake-up at DHS. According to the Washington Post, Miller has “privately derided other officials to the president for not being tough enough.” The 33-year-old is now “in charge of all immigration initiatives,” Trump recently told advisers, according to the Post.
Politico reports that Miller has been “telephoning mid-level officials at several federal departments and agencies to angrily demand that they do more to stem the flow of immigrants into the country.” One person described the calls as a form of “intimidation.”
So who will Trump select to fulfill his vision at the border, which may include bringing back the family-separation policy? Here are the names currently being floated:
Kris Kobach — The former Kansas secretary of State interviewed for the job atop DHS in the weeks after Trump’s election in 2016. He didn’t get it, but he did accidentally reveal some of what he would have done if he had.
Rick Perry — Currently serving as the Energy secretary, Perry is seen as the “easiest to confirm,” Robert Costa reports. But would the former Texas governor want to leave the relative anonymity of his current Cabinet post for on that puts him on the front line of the immigration fight in his home state?
Ken Cuccinelli — Virginia’s ex-attorney general is a longtime immigrant basher who has advocated for ending birthright citizenship.
Thomas Homan — A former ICE employee under President Obama, Homan became acting director under Trump. He retired from that post last summer and now works as a Fox News contributor, where his hot takes include ones like this:
Matthew Whitaker — The former acting attorney general left the Justice Department last month, but could make a triumphant return to the Trump administration at DHS.
Pam Bondi — Florida’s former attorney general is tight with Trump, but confirmation hearings might not be a very good idea for her given the possible pay-for-play scandal she and the president have in their past.
In Nielsen, Trump had a DHS secretary who would enforce his most inhumane policies without moral compunction, but she seems to have drawn the line at actions she believed to be illegal. Her replacement will likely be someone who disregards both morality and legality. Trump should have little trouble finding someone in his orbit who will do both.