On Sunday evening the word went forth from the White House that in the wake of a “tense” meeting with Donald Trump, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, resigned. Or was fired.
In any event, she’s been replaced, at least temporarily by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAlennan would become Acting Secretary.
I don’t personally known Nielsen, and I’m not piling on as she sifts through the cardboard boxes on the lawn outside what was her Nebraska Avenue Office.
Her public appearances – at least the ones that made live TV – have been uniquely embarrassing to watch. Either she was badly briefed, in which case she should have replaced her briefers or, she was well-briefed but couldn’t remember basic elements of her job like how many children – not down to the last child, but even in general are still separated from their parents.
According to the BBC, as recently as Congressional testimony this past March, Nielsen “said she did not know how many migrant children are currently in US detention,” to which, the BBC reported “Democrats reacted angrily.”
Nielsen got her job having been a senior person on the transition team (between the November 2016 election and the January 2017 inaugural) at DHS. Incoming DHS Secretary, Gen. John F. Kelly kept her on as his chief of staff after he was confirmed.
When Kelly moved over to become White House Chief of Staff, he brought Kirstjen Nielsen with him. She quickly gained a reputation as a person who not only wielded the whip on behalf of Kelly, but appeared to enjoy that activity.
At the urging of her mentor, Trump nominated Nielson to be Kelly’s replacement at DHS. She was confirmed on December 5, 2017.
You might think that DHS’ principal responsibility is immigration control. Here’s the Department’s mission statement from its website, “The vision of homeland security is to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.”
In addition to immigration, customs, and border control functions, the U.S Coast Guard, FEMA, and the U.S. Secret Service are located in DHS.
Immigration is, without question, a growing problem. According to a March 2019 NY Times article:
More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February , an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.
Just about a year ago, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new “Zero Tolerance” policy that meant every illegal entrant would be prosecuted and – I’m not sure we understood this part at the time – children would be separated from their parents so the adults could be prosecuted.
Sessions said at the time the policy should have the effect of slowing the flow of families if they understood their children would be taken away.
It obviously hasn’t worked.
As happens so often, when the data go south, Trump simply ratchets up the rhetoric. He recently said, “Our country is full, our area is full, the sector is full. We can’t take any more. Sorry. Can’t have it. So turn around. That’s the way it is.”
Well, our country is clearly not full, but 76,000 apprehensions in one month is a pretty big number.
The part I don’t understand this this: We are demanding that Mexico must do a better job at stopping immigrants crossing its southern border as they embark on the trek toward the U.S.
But, it is clear we can’t control our southern border, so what makes us think we can demand Mexico do something at which we are failing?
Ok, we can demand it, but what makes us think it will do any good?
Many Democrats ran for the U.S. House and Senate on the issue of developing a sane and moral immigration policy. They were very successful.
Dems running for President have the time, the platform, and the attention of the voting public to come up with actual proposals, not just jumping up and down that Trump is doing it all wrong.
In any event, they won’t have, to quote Richard Nixon, Kirstjen Nielsen to kick around any more.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to Kirstjen Nielsen’s bio, to the organization of DHS, and to the NY Times article on the 76,000 apprehensions in March.