President Trump Purges Department of Homeland Security
On Sunday, April 7th, Kirstjen Nielson, the Director of the Department of Homeland Security, announced her resignation. Soon after, more than 5 other high-level members of the Department also stepped down from their post in what is being considered a cleaning of the house by President Donald Trump.
The purge of the department and the replacements that the President has in mind suggest that the White House is seeking to take a harder line on immigration policy in the future.
The news first broke via Twitter, where Secretary Nielson posted her letter of resignation, saying, “it has been the honor of a lifetime to serve with the brave men and women of the DHS.” According to reports by the New York Times, Secretary Nielson decided to resign after coming out of a meeting with President Trump on the same day. The meeting was meant to be an attempt by the Secretary to repair relations with the President, but it became apparent that Mr. Trump wanted her out of her position in the Department of Homeland Security.
Secretary Nielson and President Trump have had a volatile, and at times hostile, relationship throughout the history of the administration. The secretary first earned the displeasure of the President in 2018, when she vacillated on the decision to sign an order which allowed for the separation of migrant children from their families. Despite eventually caving and signing the memo, Secretary Nielson was still in the crosshairs of President Trump’s ire.
In recent months, the President had demanded Secretary Nielson and her staff ratchet up border security and the capture of illegal immigrants. Despite the DHS having apprehended the most migrants in almost a decade this month, the President has continued to be unhappy with the situation at the border. Mr. Trump was irate following a recent clash with Secretary Nielson. He requested that she close ports near the border and block migrants from seeking asylum, and he was furious when she responded by informing him that such actions were illegal.
However, Mr. Trump made sure that it was not just Secretary Nielson who was pushed out of the department. Other officials who resigned or had been fired in recent days included the head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Director of the Secret Service and the DHS General Counsel. All of the men and women who filled these positions were allies of Secretary Neilson and were removed alongside her.
President Trump rapidly announced his choice for the successor of Secretary Nielson on Twitter. Declaring, “I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary.”
Mr. McAleenan is a career security and immigration official who has experience working under both Democratic and Republican parties. He has helped to oversee the President’s hardline immigration policy, but is not, as one DHS representative put it, “an ideologue or fire-breather.” Mr. Trump has likely chosen Mr. McAleenan for his loyalty and ability to follow orders, which will simplify the implementation of the President’s future efforts to curb illegal immigration.
With reelection season appearing on the horizon, President Trump has doubled down on his efforts to toughen up on migration to the United States. The firing of Secretary Nielson and her allies is likely just the beginning of this renewed effort by the President to keep illegal immigration in the headlines for the duration of his presidential campaign.