Backlash continues to grow against the possibility that President-Elect Donald Trump might tap Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) to run the Department of Homeland Security.
Conservative immigration activists point to the House Homeland Security Committee chairman’s uneven record and a USA Today report that current Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has virtually endorsed him.
“The fact that Jeh Johnson has all but endorsed Mike McCaul for DHS secretary tells me all that I need to know.”
“I’m skeptical, frankly,” said Mark Kirkorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “We need to have the most hawkish DHS secretary who’s confirmable.”
About the best that Kirkorian could say about McCaul is that he is better than the Homeland Security chief that Democrat Hillary Clinton likely would have named.
“Yeah, OK, but she lost,” he said. “The fact that Jeh Johnson has all but endorsed Mike McCaul for DHS secretary tells me all that I need to know.”
The six-term congressman, who coasted to re-election last month, has acknowledged his interest in the job and met with Trump this week. He told Fox News that questions about his commitment to border security are "laughable."
But NumbersUSA, which favors lower levels of immigration and scores members of Congress, gives McCaul a C-plus lifetime grade, placing him in the bottom fifth of Republicans in the House.
"He's not terrible. But he's pretty mediocre, overall," said Roy Beck, the group's president. "The big problem is that on the issues that he would be dealing with at DHS on immigration, you know the big issues that Trump campaigned on … in the last four years, he's really been the champion of undercutting the laws that are already on the books."
Beck said McCaul has sponsored a number of bills purporting to get tough on illegal immigration — but that actually would have done the opposite. In 2013, he sponsored a bill that would have gutted a previously passed law creating a system to track people entering and leaving the United States on visas.
Beck said another bill, co-sponsored with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), would have watered down requirements of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
In 2014, McCaul sponsored a border security bill that critics contend fell far short of what was needed, resulting in only 27 miles of double-layer fencing.
"You need a champion ... for Trump's immigration ideas," Beck said.
In addition to those measures, critics noted that McCaul was one of just 19 House Republicans who signed then-Speaker John Boehner's statement of immigration principles, which opponents contended amounted to amnesty. He also voted for President Obama's budgets allowing for the implementation of executive actions shielding certain classes of immigrants from deportation.
William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said he hopes Trump passes on McCaul.
"His stock is dropping rapidly today because the legitimate concerns we have about his duplicity" have gained traction, he said. "It would be an alarming and disappointing pick for Trump."