EDITORIAL: Officials visiting border area should pursue all information

In this Wednesday, March 6, 2019, file photo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan speaks during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on oversight of Customs and Border Protection's response to the smuggling of persons at the southern border, in Washington. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Sunday, April 7, 2019, that McAleenan will become the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, after he accepted the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. (Alex Brandon | The Associated Press)

At this point it’s unknown if Kevin McAleenan’s position as acting homeland security secretary will become a permanent appointment. Like about half of all President Trump’s Cabinet members and top advisers, McAleenan has the position on an “acting” basis, bypassing the legal requirement that such appointments be vetted and approved or rejected by the Senate. Either way, we hope that during his visit to the Rio Grande Valley this week he gathered valuable information that he can use, or pass on to the next person appointed to the position.

McAleenan, who replaced former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen after her April 10 resignation, visited McAllen and the border area Tuesday night and Wednesday. He reportedly spent the night with Border Patrol officials to see firsthand the people and circumstances they encounter during their patrols.

To his credit, the secretary also met Wednesday with local mayors to discuss border issues, and visited the McAllen Respite Center run by the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley to see firsthand what the facility, and the immigrants they serve, have and what they need.

We applaud those visits. McAleenan is hardly the first, and won’t be the last, high-ranking visitor to the border. Government officials including Congress members and President Trump himself, as well as candidates for office, have come to the border to talk immigration. Those visits, however, have been little more than photo opportunities, consisting mostly of talks with DHS officials and public statements.

McAleenan is one of the only officials willing to talk to local mayors, many who disagree with the current administration’s border and immigration policies, and to witness the humanitarian aspect of dealing with the current wave of asylum seekers.

We hope this expanded visit gave the secretary valuable information that others haven‘t gotten in their more limited trips here. We hope the border mayors, respite center workers and migrants themselves were able to tell their stories, and give McAleenan a more complete picture of the many issues underlying the current influx of immigrants. What motivates them to subject themselves, and their children, to march more than 1,000 miles through foreign and sometimes hostile terrain to come to our border?

We hope he asked the mayors how, despite the well-documented cartel violence in Mexico, the U.S. border area is subject to less crime than many other parts of this country.

In short, we hope he how has an idea of what immigration and law enforcement strategies work and what don’t, and uses the information to work with other administration officials to expand the good ideas, eliminate the bad, and develop policies that are reasonable, humane and efficient.

To be sure, it would be hard to shatter some of the preconceptions that are driving current border and immigration policy. But since McAleenan is not, at least currently, running for elected office and more interested in making statements than in seeking the truth, perhaps his mind is more open to hearing all viewpoints and interested in seeking real solutions.