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Amherst College grad new homeland security chief

  • In this Wednesday, March 6, 2019, file photo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan speaks during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on oversight of Customs and Border Protection's response to the smuggling of persons at the southern border, in Washington. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Sunday, April 7, 2019, that McAleenan will become the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, after he accepted the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON

Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2019 9:08:49 AM

AMHERST — As one of the country’s most elite private schools, Amherst College has a lengthy list of graduates who have occupied the federal government’s most powerful positions: senators, representatives, a Supreme Court justice, a president and several CIA directors, to name a few. 

The latest to join that list is Kevin McAleenan, who recently became the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, after the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen from the role on April 7.

“I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!” President Donald Trump said in a tweet.

McAleenan, 47, also serves as the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP. He graduated from Amherst in 1994 after majoring in law, jurisprudence and social thought, according to a college spokesperson.

When announced to the position, the Washington Post declared that McAleenan would “be a rare Trump administration official who remains in good standing with lawmakers from both parties.” 

As the commissioner of CBP, McAleenan also helped carry out the policy of detaining and prosecuting parents who made illegal border crossings. That policy led to the separation of children from their parents, which has drawn strong criticism from human rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers.

In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, McAleenan said the controversy over the family separation policy was “not worth it” and that President Donald Trump did not plan to revive it, though McAleenan did defend the policy.

“This was a zero-tolerance prosecution initiative that was targeted at adults violating the law,” he told NBC News. “They were always intended to be reunited.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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