(CNN)Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan will testify Tuesday at his first congressional hearing since being thrust into the Cabinet-level post three weeks ago after a shake-up in the top ranks at the Department of Homeland Security.
McAleenan, who had been serving as US Customs and Border Protection commissioner, will have his first opportunity in the new role to defend the department to Congress, make the case for resources and promote ideas for legislative fixes to the immigration system.Since taking over at DHS, McAleenan has been on a mini-media blitz, most recently appearing on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday.Lawmakers are “realizing that something different is happening with this crisis. It’s not manufactured — it’s real. And we’ve got to sit down at a table and talk about ways to solve it,” he said on the broadcast.According to a House Democratic aide, McAleenan can expect a range of questions, from the purge of department leadership to migrant family separations. Read MoreThe aide said Democratic members also will be probing the department’s “overly aggressive” interior enforcement. And the committee will want to discuss President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall, said the aide.On Monday evening, Trump announced a plan for sweeping immigration revisions, directing the attorney general and homeland security secretary to make changes to the US asylum process, including adjudicating asylum applications within 180 days of filing; requiring a fee for asylum applications and work permit applications; and barring migrants who have entered or attempted to enter the US illegally from receiving work authorization before any relief or protection is granted.McAleenan will be responsible for the next steps taken by DHS and any questions from members of Congress. Last week, McAleenan told NBC’s Lester Holt that migrant family separations had resulted in the department “losing public trust” such that “from an enforcement perspective, it’s not worth it,” and that reinstating them is not on the table.Earlier this month, CNN reported that Trump pushed to bring back family separations and offered to pardon McAleenan should he be jailed for violating immigration law by shutting the border to asylum seekers. The President has denied both accounts.Tuesday’s hearing comes as the number of migrant families arriving at the US-Mexico border has reached record highs and total monthly apprehensions are the highest they’ve been in over a decade. There were approximately 92,000 arrests of undocumented migrants for illegal entry on the southern border in March, up from 37,390 in March 2018.Last month, McAleenan postponed a hearing with the House Appropriations Committee to visit the border in El Paso, Texas, amid the surge in migrant arrivals, which has overwhelmed US Border Patrol facilities and led to the direct release of families from custody.”The only way to fundamentally address these flows is for Congress to act and to reinstate integrity into our immigration system. In the meantime, we need assistance and additional resources to manage the flow,” McAleenan said during a news conference in El Paso.McAleenan is pursuing three changes to the immigration system, according to a senior DHS official:Amending the Flores agreement, which regulates the amount of time migrant children can spend in custody.Pursuing moderate changes to credible fear determinations, so they better match asylum approval rates.Seeking the ability to in some cases repatriate unaccompanied children who aren’t from Mexico or Canada.The official also said the acting secretary plans to leverage the relationships he has on Capitol Hill from his years in government service to engage members of Congress and, specifically, to push the Hill to pass legislation to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the southern border.