Dispute Over Family Separations at Border Forced Nielsen Out

Dispute Over Family Separations at Border Forced Nielsen Out

Kerry Wise
April 9, 2019

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announces her resignation from the administration, following a meeting with President Trump on Sunday.

Trump said Sunday that Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will take over as Acting Secretary in Nielsen's stead, although Claire Grady, the undersecretary for management, is technically next in line for the post.

The president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum. She will be remembered most for her role in overseeing the "zero tolerance" policy towards migrants crossing the Mexico-US border, which resulted in the separation of more than 2,700 children from their parents. "The President's unsafe and cruel anti-immigrant policies have only worsened the humanitarian suffering at the border and inflicted vast suffering on the families who have been torn apart".

Although Sunday's resignation letter doesn't say exactly why she chose to resign, it does mention the national "discourse" regarding America's borders.

Nielsen's position had been rocky for some time.

According to CBS News, which first reported the news, Nielsen's departure was yet another victory for Stephen Miller, the far-right senior adviser in the White House who has consistently steered the president in a hardline direction on immigration.

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She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports.

But Nielsen, 46, has suffered from tepid support within the administration, taking public responsibility for Trump's deeply divisive anti-immigration policies.

Often the primary person working to turn Trump's harsh immigration rhetoric into policy, Nielsen has faced intense scrutiny.

But Nielsen's ouster serves as a reminder that Miller functions as a shadow chief of staff in the Trump administration, and is instrumental in keeping Trump focused on Miller's own obsession with what can only be called a politics of white nationalism. As Trump said last Friday when he pulled his nominee to lead ICE, he wants to bring about a "tougher" era of immigration policy and enforcement. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has held his post since January, following John Kelly's resignation a year ago.

Repeatedly subjected to tough questioning by Democrats at congressional hearings, Nielsen became a lightning rod for criticism of Trump's policies.

Kirstjen Nielsen is out as Homeland Security secretary and, for now at least, Kevin McAleenan is in. "And the problem is, the nature of the crossers, of migrants, coming across the border has changed", said York.