Senate Begins Confirmation Hearings for Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf
FAIR Take | September 2020
President Donald Trump made Chad Wolf the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in November 2019, following the resignation of acting secretary Kevin McAleenan. DHS has not had a Senate-confirmed Secretary since the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen on April 10, 2019. The Senate confirmed Chad Wolf to the role of Under Secretary for Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans on November 13, 2019, which the law required in order for the president to elevate him to the role of acting secretary. Before this, he served as then-secretary Nielsen’s chief of staff.
In August, President Trump formally nominated Wolf to the position. His nomination hearings began on September 23, 2020 when he testified before the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental and Governmental Affairs. The topic of immigration arose a handful of times in the roughly 2-hour hearing. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) grilled him on family separation and asked him whether the department planned to deport Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, following the president’s decision to end designations for some countries in that program. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked Wolf about the department’s efforts to stop human trafficking at the southwest border. Finally, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) requested information on due process concerns for illegal aliens in expedited removal.
When President Trump nominated Wolf to the role of acting secretary, FAIR raised concern that he may be a weak pick — specifically on the immigration front — due to his past lobbying for increased H-1B visas and his lack of public support for the president’s immigration agenda.
Fortunately, those fears were largely unfounded. In internal departmental discussions, he defended the policy of “zero tolerance” during the southwest border crisis of summer 2018. As the acting secretary, he oversaw the implementation of President Trump’s two executive orders to pause certain forms of legal immigration and foreign guest worker admissions during the coronavirus crisis. He, alongside Cuccinelli, also spearheaded needed reforms to the H-1B that would protect American wages and jobs. He has made some crucial mistakes, though, such as continuously raising the cap for H-2B visas despite widespread evidence that these workers threaten American blue-collar jobs.
DHS is best served when there is a Senate-confirmed secretary leading the department. DHS is one of the Federal government’s largest departments encompassing dozens of various agencies spanning everything from hurricane relief to immigration enforcement. Before the full Senate votes on Wolf’s nomination, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental and Governmental Affairs must vote internally to recommend his nomination. Should they vote to recommend him, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will then choose a date to begin his confirmation vote before the full Senate.
A video of the committee’s hearing with acting secretary Wolf is available here.