Kirstjen Nielsen resigned as the Homeland Security Secretary Sunday amid reports that President Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller is pushing for an even more hardline immigration policy.
According to the report, Trump asked Nielsen to close the ports of entry at the border and stop accepting asylum seekers, which would violate federal law. Nielsen found the proposed policies “ineffective and inappropriate,” The Times reported.
Trump repeatedly called Nielsen early in the mornings, when he usually watches Fox News, to demand she do more to stop immigrants at the border, “including doing things that were clearly illegal,” The Times added, like blocking all migrants seeking asylum. Nielsen repeatedly explained that she could not do that without violating “federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.”
Asylum seekers are not illegal or undocumented immigrants. Asylum seekers present themselves at legal ports of entry and submit their asylum claim paperwork. The United States is required by federal and international law to allow asylum requests, though the country takes in a limited number of refugees each year.
Nielsen resignation comes as Stephen Miller pushes more hardline policies:
Nielsen’s resignation came as Trump adviser Stephen Miller has become “more aggressive” behind the scenes as he pushes for an even more hardline approach at the border, Politico reported.
Miller had argued for replacing Nielsen with “more like-minded hardliners” and has been calling mid-level officials at various federal agencies to “angrily demand” they do more to stop the flow of immigrants into the country.
“It’s intimidation,” a source briefed on the calls told Politico. “Anytime you get a call like this from the White House it’s intimidation ... Under normal circumstances, if you were a deputy in one of these agencies, it would be very unusual.”
“There’s definitely a larger shakeup abreast being led by Stephen Miller and the staunch right wing within the administration,” added a source close to Nielsen. “They failed with the courts and with Congress and now they’re eating their own.”
“He’s actively trying to put in place people who have very different points of view than the current leadership within the agencies,” said a former DHS official. “His idea is basically [to] clean house.”
Questions about next DHS, ICE chiefs:
Trump tweeted that Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would be the new acting Homeland Security Secretary. By law, undersecretary for management Claire Grady would be next in time to be acting secretary, meaning she would have to be fired or resign for McAleenan to take on the position. According to the Times, Grady has “no intention of resigning.”
McAleenan would be Trump's third DHS secretary in just over two years. McAleenan also does not fit the Miller mold. He previously served in the Obama administration and a senior DHS official told CNN that he is “not an ideologue or fire breather” on immigration.
Once McAleenan takes over, Trump will not have a permanent Senate-confirmed secretary leading the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Interior, and Customs and Border Protection. His United Nations Ambassador and chief of staff have also been appointed on an acting basis.
There are also questions about who will be the next head of ICE after Trump abruptly pulled the nomination of acting director Ronald Vitiello because Miller reportedly wanted someone tougher on immigration.
Nielsen protested the move and Republicans in Congress were shocked by the move, Politico reported.
“It’s kind of a kick in the face to ICE in the middle of a very difficult period,” a congressional aide told the outlet. “There’s understandably a limited bench for people who are willing and able to do the job.”
“There’s a worry now that there’s an erosion of people that actually have operational judgment that can at least provide the president with counsel about what will be some of the negative consequences for some of these ideas,” added a source close to DHS.