We just shut down Kevin McAleenan

By Nicole Regalado, CREDO Action campaign director

This week, I led a protest that stopped Acting Secretary of  Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan from spreading more anti-immigrant hate and lies at the annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown University Law Center. 

McAleenan is one of Trump’s most cruel henchman. During his time as head of CBP, he unleashed border agents to tear gas refugee families, including children in diapers, at the border. Now, as acting head of DHS, he is not only enforcing, but also championing policies that perpetuate family separation and state-sanctioned child abuse. I stood up yesterday because no institution should treat McAleenan, or any Trump immigration official, as if their views on immigration are legitimate or reasonable in any way. They are the enablers of Trump’s hate.

McAleenan withheld information and intentionally misled Congress about the administration’s systematic circumvention of migrants’ due process rights. He oversaw the Clint, Texas, facility with its unsanitary and cruel conditions and was the leader of Customs and Border Patrol, which has killed at least 7 children in its custody since 2018. He also defended Trump slashing the number of refugees allowed to come to the United States to unprecedented levels. 

None of this is normal. Yet, mainstream Washington-based groups like MPI, CLINIC and Georgetown Law, are still operating like business as usual, giving a platform to McAleenan like the one they’ve given to other DHS secretaries in the past. The Brookings Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations are also welcoming McAleenan with open arms. That is unacceptable. 

And it’s not just McAleenan. Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders are profiting from their time promoting Trump’s lies and trying to burn down the Constitution’s protections of the free press with stints on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and a book deal, respectively. Kirstjen Nielsen, the architect of baby jails who preceded McAleenan at DHS and oversaw family separation, has been given platforms by the Atlantic Fest and the Forbes Powerful Women conference.

Before the speech, 14 immigration rights and progressive groups came together to ask the organizers of the conference to rescind McAleenan’s keynote invitation.

I understand that keynote speeches at important Washington institutions and book deals and consulting gigs are typical for White House officials under any president. But we are living in extraordinary times, and we cannot continue letting the status quo go unchallenged.  

The White House,  cabinet-level officials and people working throughout Trump’s corrupt and bigoted administration are consolidating power and inciting violence against immigrants, Muslims, and Black and Brown people. Not a single one of them should be treated as legitimate policy makers and administrators. Not a single one should be validated as an expert or a thought leader. 

Not a single institution should reward or help them rehabilitate their image after they finish serving Trump.

When some organizations are afraid of rocking the boat and unwilling to speak  truth to power and some corporations care more about profits than values, each and every one of us must use our power to hold these institutions accountable and levy social and political consequences on the crooks and liars they elevate. 

We have the power to make it impossible for institutions to normalize, rehabilitate or reward  the architects and enforcers of Trump’s hate. Just recently, pressure from progressives forced Nielsen to back out of the Atlantic Fest just days before the scheduled event. And last summer, a confrontation at a restaurant and a protest at her home, complete with child snatcher posters, helped force the end of family separation.

That’s why when McAleenan tried to speak on Monday, I shouted louder. None of Trump’s henchmen should be given a platform to spread their hatred. When beltway groups, corporations and media outlets won’t take a stand, they can expect to hear from me and thousands of other activists around the country. Because when immigrants and children are under attack by our own government, we must stand up and fight back.

Nicole Regalado is the campaign director at CREDO Action, a social change network of millions of activists that has led numerous actions and petitions calling on organizations, corporations, and media to not give Trump administration officials platforms. CREDO Action, part of CREDO Mobile, sends tens of millions of petition signatures and hundreds of thousands of phone calls to decision-makers each year. CREDO Action members also participate in meetings, protests and other direct action for progressive change.