Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on Sunday amid the administration’s growing frustration and bitterness over the number of Central American families crossing the southern border, two people familiar with the decision said. CGTN’s Toby Muse reports.
President Donald Trump thanked her for her work in a tweet and announced U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would be taking over as acting head of the department.
McAleenan is a longtime border official who is well-respected by members of Congress and within the administration. The decision to name an immigration officer to the post reflects Trump’s priority for a sprawling department founded to combat terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Read Kirstjen Neilsen’s resignation letter:
I hereby resign from the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), effective April 7th 2018. It has been my great honor to lead the men and women of the Department as its sixth Secretary. 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. I join all Americans in thanking them for their sacrifices and those of their families.
For more than two years of service beginning during the Presidential Transition, I have worked tirelessly to advance the goals and missions of the Department. I am immensely proud of our successes in transforming DHS to keep pace with our enemies and adversaries — whether it is in cyberspace or against emerging threats from new technologies.
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. I hope that the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse. Our country and the men and women of DHS deserve to have all the tools and resources they need to execute the mission entrusted to them.
I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the Administration. We have taken unprecedented action to protect Americans. We have implemented historic efforts to defend our borders, combat illegal immigration, obstruct the inflow of drugs, and uphold our laws and values. We have responded decisively to record-breaking natural disasters and helped Americans rebuild. We have prevented the disruption of U.S. elections and guarded against foreign interference in our democracy. We have replaced complacency with consequences in cyberspace, we are holding digital intruders accountable, and we are stepping up our protection of American networks. We have thwarted terrorist plotting against our homeland and launched new efforts to block terrorists and criminals from reaching our shores. And we have ramped up security measures to make it harder for our enemies and adversaries to attack us, whether it is with drones, chemical and biological weapons, or through other means.
Thank you again for the privilege to serve the American people and to lead the outstanding men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. Supporting these patriots has been the honor of a lifetime.
Kirstjen M. Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
Though Trump aides were eyeing a staff shake-up at Homeland Security and had already withdrawn the nomination for another key immigration post, the development Sunday was unexpected.
Nielsen traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday with Trump to participate in a roundtable with border officers and local law enforcement. There she echoed Trump’s comments on the situation at the border, though she ducked out of the room without explanation for some time while Trump spoke. As they toured a section of newly rebuilt barriers, Nielsen was at Trump’s side, introducing him to local officials.
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
— Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 7, 2019
She returned to Washington afterward on a Coast Guard Gulfstream, as Trump continued on a fundraising trip to California and Nevada.
But privately, she had grown increasingly frustrated by what she saw as a lack of support from other departments and increased meddling by Trump aides, the people said. She went into a meeting with Trump at the White House in Sunday not knowing whether she’d be fired or would resign, and she ended up resigning, they said.
— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) April 7, 2019
There have been persistent tensions between the White House and Nielsen almost from the moment she became secretary, after her predecessor John Kelly became the White House chief of staff in 2017. Nielsen was viewed as resistant to some of the harshest immigration measures supported by the president and his aides, particularly senior adviser Stephen Miller, both around the border and on other matters like protected status for some refugees.
Once Kelly left the White House last year, Nielsen’s days appeared to be numbered. She had expected to be pushed out last November, but her exit never materialized. And during the government shutdown over Trump’s push for funding for a border wall, Nielsen’s stock inside the White House even appeared to rise.
But in recent weeks, as a new wave of migration has taxed resources along the border and as Trump sought to regain control of the issue for his 2020 re-election campaign, tensions flared anew.
Story by CGTN America and the Associated Press