DHS head Kevin McAleenan testifies on migrant facilities
WASHINGTON — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is set to face a grilling on Capitol Hill today when he appears before a congressional panel eager to question him about overcrowded migrant detention facilities and other issues encircling his department.
He is expected to be questioned by members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on the separation of migrant children from their families, conditions at the detention centers and a secret Facebook group where border agents mocked the deaths of migrants and lawmakers.
The hearing is the latest in a series held by House Democrats in recent weeks targeting the administration’s immigration policies, putting a spotlight on migrants who died in U.S. custody, the children separated from their parents when entering the country and the rapidly deteriorating conditions in detention centers.
McAleenan’s testimony also comes just days after Vice President Mike Pence toured two migrant facilities in Texas, an air-conditioned center for families and children and a severely overcrowded facility holding adult men, where migrants complained they hadn’t showered in weeks and slept on concrete floors.
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Last week, the Oversight Committee held a high-profile hearing that featured testimony from some of the most progressive and outspoken lawmakers in the Democratic-led House, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
She and Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; and Veronica Escobar, D-Texas., testified about their recent tour of a migrant center in Clint, Texas and described the women and children they met and the conditions they witnessed.
Days later, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., known as “the Squad,” were the target of racist remarks by President Donald Trump, who said the four freshmen lawmakers should “go back” to where they came from.
The remarks were condemned earlier this week by the House in a vote largely along party lines, though four Republicans joined Democrats to denounce the remarks as racist.
McAleenan took on the role heading the department — which oversees everything from FEMA to immigration enforcement and migrant detention centers at the border — in April and has been a primary target of scrutiny on the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Before McAleenan was chosen by Trump to head DHS, he carried out some of Trump’s most controversial efforts as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection to halt undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from crossing the southern border.
The customs officers and Border Patrol agents he commanded separated more than 2,800 migrant children from their families during Trump’s now-blocked “zero tolerance” policy.
His officers fired tear gas into a crowd of migrants attempting to approach the San Ysidro Port of Entry last year, leading to questions about the administration’s response to a rush of asylum-seeking migrants.
All while at least six migrant children have died in U.S. custody since December.