Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was called to the White House this evening, and was told to resign the office she’s held for 16 months.
Donald Trump has lambasted the current enforcement of American immigration laws for years, and as the nation’s top immigration and national security official, those laws and their implementation fell under Nielsen’s purview.
Nielsen’s departure comes only two days after Trump announced that he was withdrawing the nomination of Ronald Vitiello to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Homeland Security agency tasked with enforcing Trump’s border policy, in favor of a “tougher” nominee who has yet to be named.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will serve as acting DHS secretary.
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday. “…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!”
Trump had reportedly been frustrated with Nielsen’s enforcement of some of his more controversial border policies for some time, most notably the chaotic implementation and eventual reversal of its family separation policy in late spring.
At the time, Nielsen told reporters that the policy didn’t even exist—“period”—even as the government held hundreds of undocumented minor children who had forcibly been taken from their parents.
Nielsen was reportedly berated by Trump in a cabinet meeting in May 2018 over his perception that she was not doing enough to keep the southern border secure.
The verbal flogging, detailed by The New York Times, prompted Nielsen to draft a resignation letter which she ultimately decided not to deliver.
Nielsen’s imminent departure is a part of a massive DHS overhaul engineered and directed by top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, according to a senior U.S. official.
In recent days, Mr. Trump has threatened to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border or slap tariffs on cars made in Mexico coming into the U.S. if Mexico and Congress don’t fix the situation at the border.
Nielsen, a cyber-security expert who previously worked in the George W. Bush administration, is a protégé of former Chief of Staff John Kelly’s, whom she replaced at the top of Homeland Security in early December.