Trump official: Family separation practice was 'effective' but undone by public perception

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan argued in an interview that aired Sunday night that the Trump administration’s prior practice of separating migrant families at the border was effective but undone by public perception.

“The enforcement of the law against parents who violated our border laws and brought children with them was effective,” McAleenan told CBS's "60 Minutes," adding, "But it didn't work in the sense that we lost the public trust in the implementation of that initiative. And I agreed with the president's decision to stop it.”

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McAleenan added that “when you lose the public trust in a law enforcement initiative … that means that wasn’t successful.”

As former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan was responsible for helping enforce the administration's "zero tolerance" policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border before President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE ended the practice last year.

McAleenan was named acting Department of Homeland Security head following Kirstjen Nielsen's departure earlier this month amid the Trump administration's shake-up of senior leadership at the department.

Nielsen reportedly resigned in response to pressure from the president to resume family separations. Both Trump and McAleenan have denied any plans to reinstitute the policy.

Asked about his approach to border policy, McAleenan told CBS, “I believe you can be tough and compassionate at the same time. I’m gonna do what I’ve always done — give good law enforcement, operational, and policy advice to lawmakers and to policymakers. And that’s my intent. I think the ground has shifted in this discussion over the past month.”

Since McAleenan assumed his position, he said, members of Congress who have visited the border and analyzed data on border crossings are “realizing that something different is happening with this crisis. And we’ve gotta sit down at a table and talk about ways to solve it.”