In a pair of tweets Sunday evening, President Donald Trump confirmed rumors that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen—who has spent more than a year implementing and defending and the administration’s widely condemned immigration policies—is leaving her position.
….I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
Trump said that Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will step in as acting secretary. Permanent appointments to the post require Senate approval.
Who is the replacement DHS Secretary? Someone who hid migrant children's deaths and other killings on CBP watch: CBP Commissioner – Kevin McAleenan. https://t.co/oGGKBE3fwq
— UndocuBlack Network (@UndocuBlack) April 7, 2019
Nielsen was confirmed by the Senate in December of 2017, after John Kelly left the position to serve as Trump’s chief of staff. The president’s tweets came shortly after CBS News reported that Nielsen was expected to offer her resignation Sunday as “part of a massive DHS overhaul engineered and directed by top Trump adviser Stephen Miller.”
The Associated Press, citing two unnamed sources, also reported that she resigned. “Nielsen went to the White House to speak with Trump on Sunday following their trip to the border,” per the AP. “The people say she has long been frustrated by the difficulty getting other departments to help with the growing number of families coming crossing the border.”
About an hour after Trump’s tweets, Nielsen took to Twitter to personally confirm her resignation and share her letter to the president:
Its been an honor of a lifetime to serve with the brave men and women of @DHSgov. I could not be prouder of and more humbled by their service, dedication, and commitment to keep our country safe from all threats and hazards. pic.twitter.com/lIQ5iqGDmF
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 7, 2019
Nielsen has often clashed with federal lawmakers and reporters who have questioned her about the Trump administration’s immigration policies—particularly the forcible separation of families and the caging of children at the U.S.-Mexico border as well as her recent proposal to deport unaccompanied migrant children.
She will always be the face of Trump’s family separation policy — even though she denied it existed.
Just this Friday the Trump administration, after being ordered to by a court, said it might take 2 years to identify all the kids it separated. https://t.co/J6jtkRUMzi
— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) April 7, 2019
Her departure, noted the New York Times, “comes just two days after Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly expressed anger at a rise in migrants at the southwestern border, withdrew his nominee to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement because he wanted the agency to go in a ‘tougher’ direction.”
The National Immigration Law Center, which has battled the administration’s policies in court, said on Twitter Sunday: “Nielsen presided over a [DHS] that showed a blatant disregard for our Constitution, civil rights, and human life. History will judge her.”
Looking ahead to Trump’s forthcoming appointment of the department’s next secretary, the group added that “the Senate can and should take its advise and consent role seriously this time.”
Secretary Nielsen presided over a @DHSgov that showed a blatant disregard for our Constitution, civil rights, and human life. History will judge her.
The Senate can and should take its advise and consent role seriously this time. https://t.co/J4Dn4qCOct
— National Immigration Law Center (@NILC) April 7, 2019