WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chad Wolf, a little-known policy staffer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will be the agency’s new acting secretary, said President Donald Trump, whose hard-line immigration policies are spearheaded by the DHS.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem is pictured at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) located just outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia September 24, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang
There have been a spate of departures at the DHS in recent months that have depleted its leadership ranks. The vacancies left the Trump administration with no confirmed successor to outgoing acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, whose resignation was announced last month.
“I put in a very good man who’s highly respected, and he’s acting right now. We’ll see where that goes,” Trump said in remarks to reporters at the White House on Friday when asked if Wolf would be the next DHS secretary.
A DHS spokeswoman said on Friday evening that McAleenan remained acting secretary and that Wolf continued in his role as acting undersecretary for policy.
Wolf will assume control of the department as Trump pushes his immigration crackdown in the run-up to the 2020 election.
The secretary plays a crucial and visible role in the implementation of Trump’s enforcement agenda. But Wolf, who previously was a top aide to former secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, has kept a low profile during his time in the administration.
Immigration hawks had pushed for Trump to appoint other candidates, including acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli and acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said the White House should swiftly nominate a more hard-line secretary.
“It’s not as though [Wolf] is going to go down and rip up the fence and let people swarm in,” Krikorian said. “He isn’t going to have a fire in his belly for carrying out the president’s agenda.”
Wolf has been criticized by immigration hawks also for past lobbying work for Indian tech companies that backed an expansion of temporary foreign workers.
Sara Blackwell, a Florida-based attorney who supports restrictions on such work visas, called Wolf’s appointment “an affront to the American worker.”
Republican Trump could nominate either Cuccinelli or Morgan on a permanent basis, which would please his base. But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell spoke in April of his “lack of enthusiasm” for Cuccinelli as a possible candidate. Cuccinelli previously led a political action committee that backed conservative challengers to incumbent Republican senators.
McAleenan has held the position since April. He said he would leave by Oct. 31, but told lawmakers on Wednesday that he would stay at longer to ensure a smooth transition.
Reporting by Ted Hesson and Makini Brice; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; editing by Grant McCool