The Trump administration’s pick for the next Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday for a confirmation hearing.
Senators peppered the nominee with questions about how he would lead the largest law enforcement agency in the United States and his work in the role as Acting Commissioner over the past nine months. Advocacy groups previously raised some concern about McAleenan’s part in implementing the various travel ban executive orders and advancing the president’s plan for an expanded border wall, but the confirmation hearing largely remained neutral and failed to address those concerns.
McAllenan has been a member of CBP leadership in various forms since 2006, serving as the port director for Los Angeles International Airport and then as acting Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations that oversees CBP’s 329 ports of entry. McAllenan became Deputy Commissioner in 2014 and held the number two spot in CBP until being named acting Commissioner in early 2017.
During the hearing, McAleenan received bi-partisan praise from the Senators and was introduced by Senator Hirono (D-HI).
McAleenan was asked by Republican senators about his work around border security. Senator Cornyn (R-TX) inquired about the need for additional border security, as well as finding a permanent solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, calling the opportunity to tie the two together a “perfect marriage.”
McAleenan avoided commenting on the specifics of a DACA deal or his thoughts on the Dream Act, but said border security at ports of entry and in-between the ports will be a major priority of CBP.
Democrats questioned McAleenan about the agency’s plans regarding privacy issues, focusing on searches of cellphones and concerns about racial profiling by CBP officials at the border. McAleenan noted that cellphone searches are generally rare and that his agents and officers know not to racially profile.
McAleenan’s confirmation hearing comes as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) begins to put in place its leadership team.
Francis Cissna was recently confirmed and is now leading U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which in charge of adjudicating and issuing most immigration-related requests into the United States.
Kirstjen Nielsen was nominated to be the next DHS Secretary after serving as General Kelly’s chief of staff when he was Secretary of DHS.
McAleenan’s nomination will still have to be formally voted out of committee and later passed onto the entire Senate.