The interim head of the Department of Homeland Security admitted on Sunday that he could have postponed sweeping raids in Mississippi that targeted mostly Latino immigrants, which came just days after a racially motivated mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, left Latino communities in fear.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan initially defended the raids, in which 680 people, mostly Latinos, were arrested at seven food processing plants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leaving young schoolchildren without their parents and families torn apart.
He said the raids had been planned for more than a year.
But later in the interview, McAleenan acknowledged that the optics of the immigration stings weren’t good for the department, given the recent mass shooting in El Paso in which a gunman targeted Mexicans.
“I want to go back to the Mississippi raid one more time,” Todd said. “Given the emotions of the country right now, in hindsight, do you wish this raid didn’t happen this week?”
“The timing was unfortunate,” McAleenan said.
The El Paso gunman, who killed 22 in a Walmart, was reportedly intent on targeting Mexicans due to what he characterized as a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” a white nationalist conspiracy theory and talking point frequently invoked by Trump and pundits on Fox News. After the massacre, Democrats linked the president’s racist rhetoric to the shooting.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) also joined Todd on Sunday to say that Trump’s administration is running a “campaign of terror.”
“Children are afraid to go to school for fear that when they come home, their parents won’t be there,” she said.
In his interview with Todd, McAleenan would not say whether he would take the permanent DHS secretary position if the president offered it to him.
“Is that fair to say you didn’t answer?” Todd asked.
“That’s fair,” McAleenan said.