Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin MacAleenan was forced to leave the stage before giving the keynote address at the 16th Annual Immigration, Law, and Policy Conference at Georgetown University on Monday morning, after protestors shouted down his repeated attempts to give the speech.
The speech was prefaced by an introduction from Andrew Selee, the president of the Migration Policy Institute, who appealed to the students to respect the university’s commitment to civil discourse.
“Today you’ll again hear voices from across the spectrum and from different vantage points,” Selee stated. “Undoubtedly you won’t agree on all of them, but at the time when just about every aspect of immigration has become so polarized, we believe firmly that it is important as ever to hear directly from key stakeholders on what’s animating their thoughts and actions, to be able to question them, and to have a thoughtful, civil, and informed dialogue.”
After being introduced by Selee, MacAleenan attempted to begin his address, before protestors in the auditorium stood up and began to shout down the speech. Holding a sign that said “Hate is not normal,” the protestors repeatedly chanted “when children are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.”
Despite repeated attempts by Doris Meissner, a Migration Policy Institute Senior Fellow and panelist for the speech, to get the protestors to stop and allow MacAleenan to give the address, the activists continued to drown out the speech.
“As a career law enforcement professional, I’ve dedicated my career to protecting the right to free speech, and all the values we hold dear in America, from all threats,” MacAleenan began, before being cut off for a third time.
“Lot to cover today, there’s some very serious issues that we can talk about, in candor, in a real dialogue, or we can continue to shout,” MacAleenan attempted to begin a final time, and spoke for about 30 seconds before being cut off again, after which he thanked the audience and left the stage.
Selee took to Twitter after the incident to voice his displeasure at the situation.
Deeply saddened that protesters decided to interrupt @DHSMcAleenan during his speech at a conf organized by @MigrationPolicy @cliniclegal @GeorgetownLaw. We need to hear from diverse perspectives in a democratic society, and the audience lost the chance to engage w/him on policy.
— Andrew Selee (@SeleeAndrew) October 7, 2019
In a profile in The Washington Post published on Oct. 1, MacAleenan voiced his qualms about the term “illegal alien,” saying “I think the words matter a lot,” and said the Trump’s child-separation policy was “well intended” but “went too far.”