What Was New DHS Chief Chad Wolf's Role In The Trump Administration's Family Separation Policy?

Chad Wolf took up the helm of Homeland Security on Wednesday, becoming the fifth person to lead the agency during the Trump administration.

Wolf was confirmed as the undersecretary of the Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans in a 54-41 Senate vote, effectively making him the acting leader of the DHS following Kevin McAleenan's resignation from his role as the department's acting secretary.

McAleenan stepped down from the job after just six months in the role, which he took up following former DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen's departure in April.

In his first tweet as Acting Secretary of the DHS, Wolf said he was thankful to President Donald Trump for "Placing his trust in me to serve the American people."

"I have served in DHS since inauguration day and am honored to continue serving as Acting Secretary," he said.

Already, immigration advocates have sounded the alarm over Wolf's new role, pointing to his involvement in Homeland Security's enforcement of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" family separation policy.

While Nielsen was at the helm of the DHS during the policy's enforcement, which saw thousands of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Wolf had been serving as her chief of staff at the time.

Further, emails obtained by NBC News identify Wolf as the author of a list of 16 potential policy recommendations to deter migrants and asylum seekers from crossing into the U.S., including the possibility of separating family units.

Meanwhile, pages from Wolf's calendar, which were obtained by activist and litigation group American Oversight and span from January to May 2018, also reveal his participation in at least two meetings to discuss the widely-condemned family separation policy.

"Chad Wolf was at Nielsen's side as the Trump administration tore thousands of families apart and threw children in cages," Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of immigration advocacy group Families Belong Together, said in a statement shared with Newsweek.

"Chad Wolf has already carried out shameful acts to further Trump's cruel immigration agenda," she said. "With him at the helm of DHS, the lives of children and families will continue to be at risk."

"The American people deserve public officials who fight for children and protect families," Rocketto added.

The Families Belong Together chair also condemned the elevation of current U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting chief Ken Cuccinelli to acting deputy secretary for the DHS, which also took place on Wednesday.

Previously, Cuccinelli had been named as a potential frontrunner for DHS chief, with CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan also floated as a potential contender.

However, according to CNN, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel determined that they would not be eligible to succeed McAleenan because they had not yet served a minimum of 90 days under the last Senate-confirmed DHS chief, which would have been Nielsen.

Chad wolf
Then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and her then-Chief of Staff Chad Wolf arrive at the White House for a state dinner April 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Now, it appears Wolf will be at the helm of the DHS, replacing outgoing Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan. Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty