On Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced that after 16 months on the job, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from Homeland Security “will be leaving her position.” The president also announced that Commissioner Kevin McAleenan from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be taking Nielsen’s place as the acting secretary. After the announcement, the president tweeted: “I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”
On Sunday evening, Nielsen tweeted that she had submitted her resignation, adding: “Its [sic] 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.” Along with a picture of the resignation letter she sent to President Trump, Nielsen posted on Twitter: “Despite our progress in reforming homeland security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside.” In another tweet, Nielsen pointed to “the brave and dedicated men and women of @DHSgov,” saying that she was “eternally grateful and proud of what you do each and everyday [sic] to protect our homeland.” Nielsen also wrote: “Our missions as a Department are vast and have never been more vital. You are in the arena- keep up the good fight. Thank you for your sacrifices and those of your families. God bless you and God bless our great country.”
On Sunday, Nielsen had a meeting with President Trump at the White House, despite the fact that the U.S.-Mexico border is receiving an incredible number of migrants, causing stress to the American immigration system, as well as, frustrating the Trump administration. According to the Associated Press, Nielsen was getting extremely frustrated with how difficult it was to get other departments on board with doing something about the growing number of families crossing the border.
Fox News was told by administration sources on Sunday that Nielsen wasn’t prepared to handle the issues at the border because of her background in cybersecurity. McAleenan, on the other hand, fits Trump’s requirement of being the “toughest cop” on the beat.
Just last week, Nielsen skipped out on a meeting in Paris with interior ministers from the Group of Seven countries (G-7) to help deal with the migration crisis, which Nielsen compared to the outcome of a Category 5 hurricane, such as Katrina. Nielsen also took advantage of social media in the past few days, pointing at Congress to take responsibility for giving border and immigration officials the proper resources and tools to “fulfill our humanitarian and security mission.”
On Wednesday, Nielsen visited El Paso, Texas on her first stop on a tour of the border meant to evaluate the number of incoming migrants and how the department should respond to the crisis. “Our system and facilities were never structured to withstand the current influx of immigrants,” said Nielsen. On Friday, Trump and Nielsen met with local law enforcement and border officers. During the meeting, Nielsen repeated the same issues as Trump, but she reportedly left the room for a while without any explanation while President Trump was speaking. As the group took a tour of the newly rebuilt section of barriers, Nielsen stayed by Trump’s side, while she introduced him to the local officials. As Trump continued to California and Nevada for a fundraising trip, Nielsen returned to Washington on a Coast Guard Gulfstream.
Nielsen was nominated by Trump in October of 2017 for the position of Homeland Security secretary, causing her to replace her former boss, John Kelly, who was named by Trump as the White House chief of staff. In December, Nielsen was approved for the position by the Senate. Nielsen showed that she was resistant to many of the harsher immigration measures that were being supported by the Trump administration, especially when it came to senior adviser Stephen Miller. Apparently, she constantly had issues with border matters as well as issues like the protected status of certain refugees. According to Fox News, a senior official told the news agency that National Security Adviser John Bolton had felt that Nielsen wasn’t the right fit for the job, as he opposed her policy of using United Nations organizations in an attempt to put a halt on the number of illegal migrants crossing the border. The official also claimed that Kelly and Bolton had gotten into a heated disagreement over the approach Nielsen took during a policy meeting in October of 2018, which caused Bolton to go to President Trump in protest of Nielsen’s actions.
Nielsen’s days were apparently numbered the moment she left the White House at the end of last year. She originally expected to get pushed out last November, but that never happened. And ironically enough, while Trump shut down the border in an effort to secure funding for the border wall, Nielsen became even more popular in the White House. McAleenan was nominated by Trump as CBP commissioner on the very first day of his presidency, but he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate until March of 2018. In November of 2014, McAleenan was appointed as the CBP deputy commissioner by former President Barack Obama.
According to Fox News, sources say that it’s still unsure whether or not McAleenan is capable of handling the political duties that come with being the secretary of Homeland Security, despite his relationships with the State Department, the Pentagon, as well as, the National Security Council. McAleenan’s reputation within the CBP can be described as a “brilliant” mind with “tremendous organizational skills.”
Nielsen’s resignation is just one of many shakeups within the department since it was founded to fight terrorism after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Trump confirmed on Friday that he had retracted his nomination of the acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ron Vitiello to become a permanent fixture in the agency. Trump told the reporters that “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction, we want to go in a tougher direction.” According to Fox News, sources from the administration have said that Trump’s withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination was his first step to control the border crisis. His second step was to get rid of Nielsen by asking for her resignation.