Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan spoke with Brian Kilmeade to address accusations from former Acting ICE Director Tom Homan, who is also a Fox News Contributor, accusing him of leaking the details of the planned ICE raid that was eventually called off by President Trump. McAleenan said "Categorically, I did not and would not leak details of a law enforcement operation." When discussing the current crisis at the border and the controversy over unaccompanied minors being held in detention centers, McAleenan is hopeful congress can come together with a bipartisan compromise to give the money and resources needed to address unaccompanied children at the border in a safe and effective way.
BRIAN KILMEADE, HOST, FOX NEWS: He's acting Director of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and he joins us now. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thanks, Brian. Good to be with you.
KILMEADE: First off, some relief. I understand through a lot of - you do a lot of politicking, working behind the scenes to get Congress to act. What happened in the Senate yesterday that gives many people hope?
MCALEENAN: Well we saw a very impressive bipartisan vote, 84 to 8, that means we're starting to have a dialogue based on a shared set of facts on what's actually happening at the border and what we need.
The bill doesn't have everything we want, for instance it doesn't have our beds for additional single adult beds for ICE that we need. But 84 to 8 is a strong bipartisan vote, we need the House to take it up and pass it to help us get some relief at the border.
KILMEADE: How can they possibly not put beds in when they know they're overrun and the conditions are paramount?
MCALEENAN: It's frustrating, apparently anything to do with ICE is a little bit too controversial for some members at this point. But the fact is we're not going to release single adults, we're not going to give up the security of the border.
We're going to find a way to bridge that. But we absolutely need the rest of the funding to take care of children in our custody has been a very big focused issue, most of that money is going to Health and Human Services, a different department that simply needs to be able to have unaccompanied children, kids who arrive alone at the border in a safe and effective way.
KILMEADE: I understand since October, 51,000 have come by alone, correct?
MCALEENAN: That's right.
KILMEADE: So where do they go?
MCALEENAN: Yes so we're on pace to exceed the prior surges for the unaccompanied children from 2014 and 2016 this year. Those kids come in, they're taken care of by Health and Human Services, social workers, professionals that specialize in taking care of children and they're placed with sponsors in the U.S.
Generally that's a family member, most often however that family member is here unlawfully. So it's a - it's a broken system under the current law, we've asked Congress to change it, it is one of the three targeted changes we're looking for to address the current and that the president's asked Congress to come together and address.
KILMEADE: You - go ahead, sorry.
MCALEENAN: No I was just going to comment on the - on the family issue. The families is what's really unique about this year, just this incredible increase, we've bypassed all records for family units.
Last month alone, May was higher than our previous records for family units for an entire fiscal year. So this is a dramatic crisis, it needs to be addressed in law. The supplemental is one aspect of it, but we also need those fundamental changes to strengthen our legal framework.
KILMEADE: Kevin, Mr. Secretary, there is a story in Bloomberg today that I have trouble poking holes in, it says Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador are all countries that are struggling, they are ravaged by gang violence, however the bond market views the nations, especially the first two, as stable, almost safe. It looks as though they have a policy to empty out those who need it most, their lower class into our country.
This is a strategy for these countries, have you seen that? You've met with these heads of state
KILMEADE: their lower class into our country. This is a strategy for these countries. Have you seen that? You've met with these heads of state.
MCALEENAN: So what - what I've seen is actually coming together both in Guatemala and Honduras the last several weeks and months a significant effort to help work on the migration problem. Now you heard the vice president yesterday or earlier this week say Mexico, since this deal that the president generated with Mexico has done more than Congress to address the problem.
I think frankly Guatemala and Honduras are going to be next that they're willing to enter into agreements where we tackle these smugglers that are incentivizing their populations to leave. We've gotten with Guatemala, we're working on one with Honduras and more importantly we're going to be able to collaborate on asylum so people can't just choose what country they want to live in. If they actually need protections, they've got to apply for asylum in the first safe country they arrive in.
That's going to change the dynamic in the region if we can get that going. But you're right, historically these countries have not done enough to address challenges with their populations and really this is a poverty and economic opportunity migration. It's not based on violence. Violence is down in all three countries over the last five years significantly.
KILMEADE: So when we saw that family on the front page of "The New York Times" and on video on our show, face down in the water having drowned trying to cross into our country, point - fingers started getting pointed. When we see a tragedy like that Kevin, you're now acting director of Homeland Security, what role do we play in that? What role do their countries play in that? What role did they play in their - in their demise?
MCALEENAN: Right. So first of all that's just a devastating image, right? It's emblematic of the crisis we're facing. The fact that 88,000 families crossed our border last month; 95 percent of them unlawfully. This is a devastating result. We had four - three kids and a woman die on the banks of the river last week as well. We had drowning of a toddler last month. This is part of a continued challenge because our legal framework is inviting these families to take this risk. So in terms of who's responsible, it's the weakness in our laws that's causing this direct response which is an unprecedented number of families coming to our border.
Smugglers are capitalizing on it; they're advertising it in the western islands of Guatemala and the rural areas of Honduras and people are responding. They're taking this dangerous journey and it has tragic consequences all too often.
KILMEADE: You're going to run out of old money for these facilities which are stark by design. You're not supposed to be housing people. It's not supposed to be the Marriott but here's what Julian Castro said about the conditions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If HHS needs $3 billion more dollars to improve the conditions to build more housing, wouldn't that alleviate it? You're talking about not getting one more dime and it doesn't make any sense to me.
JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY FO HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't - I wouldn't give them - I wouldn't give them one more dime for these types of conditions. I don't have confidence that if you give them more money right now, if they have a plan to actually have different conditions...
KILMEADE: So in other words because the conditions aren't good, they're not going to help to make the conditions better?
MCALEENAN: Frankly, it doesn't make sense. The conditions in Health and Human Service centers for children are appropriate. They have educational access, recreational access, medical care. They're very strong facilities. The challenge we're having is that the kids are backing up in border patrol stations which are essentially police stations with hard bench and hard floor cells that are designed for single adults. If HHS gets that money, those kids can moved out of border patrol stations into appropriate places for children so I'm afraid that he doesn't understand the system.
KILMEADE: He doesn't. Nancy Pelosi on the deportations that were going to be implemented last weekend. Let's listen.
NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: So that is really kind of what happened. He didn't say what he was going to do but the president said, "Oh, I'll let you know. I'll let you know." It into well people broke the law. A violation of status is not a reason for deportation. It's just not so.
KILMEADE: Is a violation of status a reason for deportation?
MCALEENAN: I mean I don't understand that logic there either. If you're here unlawfully and you have a final order of removal from a judge, that is by definition a reason for deportation and our responsibility as a law enforcement department to execute.
You know, the situation we've asked to change is to be able to address these families as they arrive at the border, put them into a fair but expeditious proceeding while they're in custody at an appropriate center for families and finish that process up front so we're not releasing people into the U.S. to wait years for a result from a court and then ultimately not show up for their removal.
And then that ends up with ICE having to go into communities to pick people up. That's the - that's the core of the problem, we'd like to address it up front, that's what the president has asked Congress to come together and work with us on.
KILMEADE: I know and you had a lot to do with Mexico and the crackdown on their southern border, how is that going?
MCALEENAN: So they've really stepped up, you mentioned how this crisis has been a tremendous challenge all year, it really peaked in May. The last three and a half weeks we've seen a reduction in our numbers, our June numbers are going to be lower than May which is very positive.
But we need to see more, both in terms of the enforcement in Mexico and these additional agreements we're talking about, not only with Mexico but with Guatemala and Honduras.
We need to continue the regional progress to actually make a dent in this flow. We could also address it by changing our laws here, but we're focused right now on the diplomatic opportunities because we're getting more progress in those areas.
KILMEADE: OK I want you to here what happened over the weekend, your name was brought up with Tom Homan who might be working on some type of borders czar role, former ICE director now contributor on Fox News.
There was - these ICE raids are going to take place Friday, Nancy Pelosi picks up the phone and says I'd rather you not do that. The president says I'll give you two weeks to come with something. Here's what Tom Homan said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TOM HOMAN, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: I'll tell you what these immigrants (ph) aren't the only ones resisting ICE, you've got the acting secretary of Homeland Security resisting what ICE is trying to do.
In the Washington Post story (ph), numerous media outlets, he does not support this operation. If that's - if that's his position, then he's on the wrong side of this issue.
You don't tell the men and women of ICE a day before they go out there and do this operation, look this story was leaked, they gave the locations of the cities, the day they're supposed to start, how many targets.
This leak which I know where the leak came from, I think we all know where the leak came from, that story only benefits one person, put these officers at greater risk of harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So you're - you're - that of course rippled to you and next thing you know, you're in the eye of the storm, we hadn't heard from you. I did hear from your people saying listen that's not true, in 18 years I've never leaked anything.
Kevin can you tell me - Kevin McAleenan, can you tell me what happened?
MCALEENAN: Sure, so first of all categorically I did not and would not ever leak details of a law enforcement operation. Let's just say that up front. Secondly I understand Tom's frustration, Tom believes in enforcement of the immigration law.
That's my responsibility as acting secretary, that's what ICE does for a living. And that's the president guidance frankly to step up our efforts on interior enforcement to ensure that we have a balanced system that addresses border security and interior enforcement to prevent people from thinking they can come into our country and stay unlawfully indefinitely.
So that's our responsibility, we're designing a new operation to meet the president's guidance that's going to be implemented, if we can't get congressional action as the president's asked for, we're working with Congress. I've talked to multiple members, going up to the Hill in a little bit to try to keep that focus and direction on changing the law.
But the bottom line is ICE needs to do its job and they need to be allowed to do their job and I support them 100 percent.
KILMEADE: So is there anything about the president's policies - well you said yourself, I just can't get on board with that.
MCALEENAN: So that's not my role, I'm an operator, I'm a law enforcement professional, the president sets policy and we implement. We implement in the best way we know how based on our operational experience.
KILMEADE: In terms of actually getting something across, Senator Lindsey Graham took a lot of what you said from the - from undoing the Flores decision to getting rid of the 20 days and you have to let go which would help alleviate the catch and release.
He seemed to have put that into writing.
Have - I know you work the halls of Congress to try to get your point across and get something done, what could you tell me the progress is there?
MCALEENAN: Well the progress is better on the supplemental, as you saw in the Senate with the 84 to 8 vote in terms of the resources we need. It's not - it's not gone as far unfortunately on the targeted changes we need in the law to address this crisis.
Chairman Graham's bill absolutely takes those up, allowing us to keep families together through a fair and expeditious immigration proceeding, allowing us to repatriate unaccompanied children the way we do with Mexico and Canada for Central American countries further away and trying to rationalize that asylum process so that initial credible fear determination isn't, you know, a guarantee of being allowed to stay indefinitely.
It's got to be better aligned with the ultimate asylum adjudication at the end of a case. Those three things alone would dramatically change our posture for security at the border and would allow our Border Patrol agents to get back n the line and focus on stopping smugglers, drug traffickers and those single adults that might try to enter the country and evade capture.
So he's made a lot of progress, he's written up a good bill, he's introduced it, and he's working with Democrats I understand to try to make some progress to find a compromised solution. That's something I'll be engaging in and supporting as much as I can.
KILMEADE: And could you lastly tell me the attitude of the Border Patrol, I know they're overworked, they're underpaid, they're understaffed, they're forced to do jobs they weren't hired to do because of the desperation.
What's the - what's the sense at the border?
MCALEENAN: Right I am - I am in awe of our Border Patrol agents and their commitment despite tremendous challenges this year. What they're - what they're hearing now about, you know, treating children unfairly in their Border Patrol stations is frankly a travesty from my perspective because nobody has worked harder and they've done it without enough support.
They've - nobody has worked harder to protect children, to rescue them in the river, in the desert and to really take care of them while they're waiting for transfer to Health and Human Services.
The Border Patrol agents I think are heroes, they've managed to maintain border security while they're dealing with all these problems and they deserve better. They deserve better from Congress in terms of their resources and they deserve better in terms of the legal framework and I'm going to keep fighting for them as long as I'm in this position.
KILMEADE: Absolutely, you know 100 percent back you on that. Kevin McAleenan, acting director of Homeland Security, thanks so much, best of luck.
MCALEENAN: Thanks Brian, appreciate the time.
KILMEADE: You got it.