DHS Secretary Nielsen on the Way Out?
By Heather Ham-Warren | May 18, 2018
The Trump administration has been a revolving door for high-profile advisors—and the cabinet is no exception. In July 2017, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly resigned to become White House Chief of Staff. That September, Tom Price surrendered his position as Secretary of Health in Human Services after the scandalous fallout of taking tax-payer funded private charter flights. On separate occasions in March 2018, President Trump fired both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Twitter; and last week, rumors began to swirl that it was Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen that has one foot out the door.
Nielsen grew up in Florida before moving to the mid-Atlantic, graduating with a Bachelors from Georgetown and a law degree from the University of Virginia before serving in the Bush administration. More notably, she served as John Kelly's chief of staff during his time at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She was confirmed by the Senate relatively easily compared to other nominations still in limbo, and upon assuming her Secretary position, began initiating many immigration-related reforms that President Trump promised on the campaign trail.
This year, she canceled Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for several countries, allowing the status to be phased out to give both individuals and their home countries time to prepare to re-assimilate. Additionally, she has been fiercely defensive of the President's sometime controversial comments and vocal about the need for securer borders. In various testimonies before the House and Senate, Nielsen has spoken on the importance of funding a legitimate border wall, the dangers of sanctuary cities, and the negatives effects of illegal immigration on the U.S. economy.
It is also believed that under Nielsen, DHS even assisted lawmakers in drafting House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.), Securing America's Future Act— a conservative, immigration reform bill cosponsored by nearly 100 Republicans. Unfortunately, a coalition of pro-amnesty Republicans and the entire Democratic caucus have prevented leadership from securing a majority on true immigration reform legislation.
President Trump has publicly expressed his frustration in the lack of progress on minimizing illegal immigration, and allegedly, at last week's Cabinet meeting, he took that frustration out on Nielsen. According to reports, the president scolded multiple members of his cabinet for their perceived role in the failure to curb illegal immigration. But, unsurprisingly, it was Nielsen who received the brunt of the president's wrath. Reports claim that the President berated her, in front of her counterparts, for not closing the loopholes that allow illegal aliens into the country.
Following the confrontation, it was reported that Nielsen drafted a resignation letter, believing that she could not remain in her position if the president did not view her as an effective and productive member of his team. Politico reported that Vice President Pence changed her mind after hearing the rumors and summoning her to the White House to ask her to stay.
While ignoring quitting rumors, Nielsen released a statement saying, "I share his [the president's] frustration. Border security is the most basic and necessary responsibility of a sovereign nation. These are complex issues and I will continue to direct the Department to do all we can to implement the President's security-focused agenda." She added, "It is my great honor to represent the men and women of DHS who work every day to enforce our laws and secure our nation."
The president is right to be disappointed in the lack of progress made to secure our borders during his tenure. However, that disappointment should be shared amongst all three branches of government, with a special emphasis on congressional Democrats who view illegal aliens as the key constituency when crafting immigration policy.
Regardless, it looks like Secretary Nielsen will remain in her position—at least for the time being.