Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns as Head of Department of Homeland Security
After 16 months in the job, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is retiring. She will be replaced by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
Nielsen tweeted Sunday evening that she had submitted her resignation and added: “Its [sic] 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.” She included an image of a resignation letter to Trump in which she wrote: “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 a subsequent tweet, Nielsen addressed “the brave and dedicated men and women of @DHSgov,” saying she was “eternally grateful and proud of what you do each and everyday [sic] to protect our homeland”.
“Our missions as a Department are vast and have never been more vital,” Nielsen wrote. “You are in the arena- keep up the good fight. Thank you for your sacrifices and those of your families. God bless you and God bless our great country.”
President Donald Trump met with Nielsen at the White House Sunday amid an ongoing influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border that has been taxing America’s immigration system and sparking frustration within the administration.
Nielsen had skipped last week’s meeting of interior ministers from the Group of Seven countries (G-7) in Paris to deal with the migration crisis, which she compared to the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane.
She also had taken to social media in recent days, tweeting that Congress must give border and immigration officials the tools and resources needed to “fulfill our humanitarian and security mission.”
Nielsen visited El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, marking her first stop on a border tour aimed at assessing the surge of migrants and the department’s response. “Our system and facilities were never structured to withstand the current influx of immigrants,” she said.
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 December of that year.
Once Kelly left the White House at the end of last year, Nielsen’s days appeared to be numbered. She had expected to be pushed out last November, but her exit never materialized. And during the government shutdown over Trump’s push for funding for a border wall, Nielsen’s stock inside the White House even appeared to rise.
Trump nominated McAleenan as CBP commissioner on the first day of his presidency, but McAleenan as not confirmed by the Senate until March of 2018. He was appointed CBP deputy commissioner in November 2014 by President Barack Obama.
Nielsen’s departure is the latest staffing shakeup in the department, which was founded to combat terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
On Friday, Trump confirmed he had withdrawn the nomination of acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Ron Vitiello to become the permanent head of the agency, telling reporters that “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction, we want to go in a tougher direction.”
Nielsen will remain in her post until April 10, Wednesday.