News and Commentary

REPORT: Department Of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen To Step Down Amid ‘Massive DHS Overhaul’

UPDATE: President Donald Trump confirmed Nielsen’s departure —and Kevin McAleenan’s appointment — on Twitter late Sunday.

“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” Trump tweeted. “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!”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has been charged with managing the ongoing illegal immigration crisis, may tender her resignation to the White House during a meeting Sunday with President Donald Trump, according to a report from CBS News.

The meeting was set to take place at 5 p.m EST. CNN’s Jake Tapper reports that Nielsen’s status is still unclear as of Sunday evening.

CBS News reports that Nielsen’s possible resignation is just one of several expected in a “a massive DHS overhaul” designed to take the Department of Homeland Security in a “tougher direction,” more in line with Trump’s campaign rhetoric. CBS says the move is “orchestrated” and “engineered” by White House adviser Stephen Miller, who has encouraged Trump to take a very tough line on illegal immigration.

Tapper reports that Nielsen is at the White House to discuss how the Department of Homeland Security handles asylum requests. Rumors of Nielsen’s imminent resignation have swirled before, and Nielsen has remained in her post.

“It is believed within the administration that President Trump will be pushing for personnel changes and there are others afoot beyond the ICE director nominee who was pulled Friday,” Tapper tweeted late Sunday. CNN’s source, a “senior administration official,” “notes President Trump‘s frustration with the current asylum laws, and his desire for individuals who work for the administration to block Central American asylum seekers from entering the United States — contrary to the laws on the books that allow their entry.”

Nielsen has served as DHS Secretary since 2017, making her one of the longest serving current cabinet members. She ushered DHS through several crises, including a public outcry over a departmental policy of separating minor children from parents declaring asylum at the United States-Mexican border.

The policy, which was designed to help the United States Customs and Border Protection agency skirt an Obama-era court order mandating that full families not be kept in CBP custody more than 21 days, drew ire from both Republicans and Democrats and was quickly scrapped.

But in the ensuing months, Nielsen has been forced to contend with an endless parade of migrant caravans from Guatemala and Honduras. The thousands of migrants are apparently instructed to request asylum upon arriving at the border rather than try to cross illegaly. As a result, CPB and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have been utterly overwhelmed, trying to process thousands upon thousands of asylum requests, and caring for thousands upon thousands of asylum seekers who are being detained while their claims are adjudicated.

The only other currently available option for CBP and ICE is to “catch-and-release,” the way the Obama Administration did, allowing asylum seekers to enter the United States temporarily, either under the care of family and friends, or wearing small tracking devices, like ankle monitors, pending a pre-scheduled asylum hearing. The majority of these asylum seekers, of course, rarely return for court dates.

At one time, President Trump threatened to close the border completely, but relented late last week after he says Mexico agreed to enforce its own immigration laws.

If Nielsen does tender her resignation, it is expected that Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will replace her, at least temporarily.