President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Sunday evening that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned from her post.
….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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
According to a source close to this matter, Trump met with Nielsen early Sunday evening to ask her to resign after demanding that she takes action, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum to stop migrants from entering the United States. Nielsen defended her role, citing limitations imposed on the her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations was preventing her to oblige to the president demands.
In her resignation letter to Trump, which she tweeted, Nielsen said she hoped her successor “will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders.”
“I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside,” Ms. Nielsen said in a resignation letter. “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 the discord in our nation’s discourse.”
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— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 7, 2019
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will serve as acting DHS secretary, Trump announced. However, by law, the under secretary for management, Claire Grady,who is currently serving as acting deputy secretary, is next in line to be acting secretary. The White House will have to fire her to make Mr. McAleenan acting secretary.
Nielsen tweeted late Sunday that she has “agreed to stay on as secretary through Wednesday, April 10th to assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key DHS missions are not impacted.”
I have agreed to stay on as Secretary through Wednesday, April 10th to assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key DHS missions are not impacted.— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 8, 2019
Trump nominated Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary in October 2017, replacing her former boss John Kelly, whom Trump had named White House chief of staff months earlier. She was confirmed by the Senate in a 62-37 in December of that year.
During her time at DHS, Nielsen pushed for Congress for more border wall funding and to tighten the loopholes in the immigration laws. However, she was viewed by the president and his aides as resistant to some of the harshest immigration measures, with both clashing on certain approaches to border security.
Nielsen faced criticism from Trump over things she couldn’t control, such as court rulings against his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, his ban on refugees from predominantly Muslim nations, and a perceived inability to effectively secure or choke off border crossings. In November, Trump was growing frustrated with Nielsen, informing advisers that he was ready to terminate her as DHS secretary, but that move never occurred.
On Friday, Nielsen accompanied Trump during his visit to Calexico, California to see the new section of the border wall and introducing him to local officials. She made her first border tour stop at El Paso, Texas last Wednesday to assess the surge of migrants and the department’s response.
“Our system and facilities were never structured to withstand the current influx of immigrants,” Nielsen said.
Last week, Trump threatened to close the U.S. border with Mexico or slap tariffs on cars made in Mexico coming into the U.S. if Mexico and Congress don’t fix the growing spike in migration. Customs and Border Protection apprehended 66,450 who crossed the border illegally in February, an increase of more than 18,000 from the month before.
The exit comes days after Trump confirmed to reporters that he had withdrawn the nomination of acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Ronald Vitiello to become the permanent head of the agency, citing they want “to go in a tougher direction,” a step in the president’s plan to control the border crisis. Nielsen was unaware what was happening until after the nomination had been pulled
“Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction, we want to go in a tougher direction,” Trump told reporters.
Possible replacement for DHS chief is Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia Attorney General, a favorite among conservative activists that fits the profile Trump wants for his next homeland secretary.