Democrats worry Trump will replace Nielsen with an immigration hard-liner

Democrats worry Trump will replace Nielsen with an immigration hard-liner

Nielsen "has arguably been the most aggressive secretary in the department's short history in cracking down on immigration-with her legacy likely to be defined among progressives by the 'zero tolerance' prosecution policy of late spring and early summer 2018 that resulted in the separation of thousands of families at the US-Mexico border", writes immigration reporter Dara Lind.

Tensions between the White House and Nielsen have persisted nearly from the moment she became secretary, after her predecessor, Kelly, became the White House chief of staff in 2017. In a follow-up social media post, the president announced that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would become the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.

White House officials said Trump wanted someone at DHS who would focus on the border as the top priority. The president and Stephen Miller, his hard-line immigration adviser, have long grumbled privately about the secretary's insufficiently brutal approach to the surge in migrant families across the border.

"This is going to be a tough job".

On Sunday, he said McAleenan's appointment as acting secretary was "deeply disturbing".


White House officials, Democratic lawmakers and legal experts agree that whatever Trump wants next is unlikely to be something Nielsen's successor can do swiftly - especially while working for an immigration hard-liner who is growing more and more frustrated with the increased number of attempted border crossings and apprehensions there.

Trump has expressed frustration with the situation along the US border with Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to escape poverty and crime in central America have traveled in hopes of entering the United States.

Under Nielsen, migrants seeking asylum are waiting in Mexico as their cases progress. While Trump erroneously frames this as an "invasion" and a national security crisis, it truly is becoming a humanitarian crisis - in part because of the administrations' reactions to and treatment of the asylum seekers.

"When even the most radical voices in the administration aren't radical enough for President Trump, you know he's completely lost touch with the American people", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

But McAleenan has spoken publicly about the need for US aid dollars to countries such as Hondorus, El Salvador and Guatemala - from where many recent undocumented migrants originate.


"Kirstjen Nielsen will be known for implementing a cruel policy of forcibly separating parents and children", he told CNN.

"She leaves behind a troubled legacy at the Department of Homeland Security".

"There's nothing we can do that's worse than what people are facing in Central America", he said. "She had a background in cybersecurity".

"I've had conversations with Republican colleagues over the past year or so who swear that she was reluctant to impose some of President Trump's most egregious policies. It has to raise the question for anyone who is offered a cabinet opportunity with President [Donald] Trump whether their reputation will survive".


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