DHS press secretary to leave for position at State Department

Tyler Q. Houlton leaving position at end of week

By Geneva Sands, CNN
Drew Angerer/2017 Getty Images

(CNN) - Department of Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton is leaving his position at the end of the week after nearly two years delivering the public message for a department that has been at the center of the Trump administration's focus on immigration and many of its controversial policies.

Houlton's last day at DHS is Friday and he is expected to remain in the administration, taking a position as a senior adviser at the State Department. CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

His departure from the department is the latest in a wave of changes at DHS headquarters, including at top leadership positions, stemming from the forced resignation last month of former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The departures included the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as a leadership shakeup at US Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.

After Nielsen left the department, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan was appointed as acting secretary, bringing a number of CBP staff with him to headquarters.

DHS recently lost another key member of its press team. Jonathan Hoffman, who was serving assistant secretary for public affairs, left DHS earlier this month to take the spokesman role at the Department of Defense, which he began this week.

Houlton has been leading the press office since Hoffman's departure. He joined the department in September 2017, when acting Secretary Elaine Duke was still at the helm, but served most of his time under Nielsen.

He was a "trusted adviser" of Nielsen, traveling with her to Guatemala, California and London, among other trips, according to a former DHS official who worked closely with him.

During his time at DHS, he managed the department's public response during a number of high-profile security incidents, the midterm elections and hurricane season. However, he held few press briefings during his tenure.

He also defended some of most controversial policies implemented by DHS. Perhaps the most controversial was the administration's zero-tolerance policy that led to thousands of children being separated from their parents.

"[W]e don't have a policy of separating families. If you commit a crime in this country, the police will take you to jail regardless if you have a family or not. Illegal aliens should not get preferential treatment because they happen to be illegal aliens," tweeted Houlton in May 2018.

According to a source familiar with his thinking, Houlton has had a "longtime interest in foreign affairs and looks forward to furthering the administration's policy goals under Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo's leadership."

It is unclear who will takeover in the press office after his last day.

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