The Senate bucked immigrant-rights activists Wednesday, voting to advance the nomination of Kevin McAleenan, whom President Trump has tapped to lead the country’s border agency.
The 79-19 vote headed off a filibuster and set up a final confirmation vote next week.
Mr. McAleenan has been acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since the start of the Trump administration, and the president has sought to make him the permanent pick for the agency that oversees the air, sea and land ports of entry and the Border Patrol, which enforces laws in between the official entry points.
During his time as acting chief Mr. McAleenan has overseen building and testing of Mr. Trump’s border wall prototypes and has shepherded the president’s push for stepped-up border enforcement, drawing the ire of immigration groups who say agents have stepped over the lines.
The activists’ particular gripes rest with treatment of children, who they say Border Patrol agents have separated from parents during arrests.
“Kevin McAleenan proved that he is another of President Trump’s puppets, who will stop at nothing to harm immigrants,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “Mr. McAleenan has aggressively prosecuted President Trump’s assault on immigrants and asylum-seekers. A vote against McAleenan is a vote in favor of American values and families.”
But the 79-19 vote Wednesday suggested most Democrats disagreed with the activists’ stance.
Indeed, some of the party’s staunchest immigrant-rights defenders and noted liberals voted to advance Mr. McAleenan’s nomination.