Updated: Oct 25, 2019
After a turbulent year of being the face of a controversial border policy, Kristen Nielson resigns as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
By Solomon Smith, Managing Editor
President Donald Trump announced the resignation of Kristjen Nielsen from the office of Homeland Security on twitter Sunday amid clashes over the crisis at the border.
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” wrote Trump on Twitter.
According to sources at CNN, Nielsen was not expected to resign Sunday and was on her way to meet with the president to discuss her agenda. The meeting was scheduled for 5 p.m. at the White House, and Nielsen had been, according to sources, blindsided by the president’s request for her resignation. Several persons familiar with Nielson, according to the New York Times, mentioned that Nielson had a prepared letter drafted at the ready.
“I hereby resign from the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), effective April 7th 2019,” read Nielsen’s resignation letter. “Despite our progress in reforming homeland security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside.”
In recent months, the president had asked Nielson to close the southern border and bar entry to asylum seekers, most of whom come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala through Mexico. Nielson had been working on garnering support from the three countries when Trump announced that he would be cutting aid to them, sending mixed messages. She also stated that closing the southern border entry ports and turning away asylum seekers would not help the situation and would be illegal as asylum seekers had a right to enter the country according to American and international law, according to the New York Times.
Nielson was a staunch defender of the policy to separate families at the border, instituted by the president through a memo from her office publicly, but privately many sources close to her say she waited for weeks to draft the memo as reported in an article from the New York Times. In a meeting with congress, she defended the family separation policy while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge that children were kept in cages or that the policy was a policy, as opposed to a law. The disagreements in policy between her and the president led to her outing, according to some insiders, as Trump wanted someone more extreme.
“It is deeply alarming that the Trump Administration official who put children in cages is reportedly resigning because she is not extreme enough for the White House’s liking,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement released in response to her resignation.
Trump has temporarily placed Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as the temporary replacement for Nielsen. In a tweet, Nielsen has said that she will remain to guide the next leader of the department.
“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.”