US President Donald Trump on Sunday announced the departure of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen , underscoring his intent to toughen immigration policy amid a surge in illegal crossings along the southern border .
Nielsen’ s exit marks the end of a difficult relationship with her boss , who was said to be unhappy with her performance despite her unswerving loyalty and full – throated defense of the president ’ s most controversial policies.
During her 18 months at the helm of the powerful agency , the 46- year – old became synonymous with the controversial practice of separating children from their parents, making her a frequent target of progressive groups and the Democratic opposition who repeatedly called on her to resign.
None of this , however , seems to have been enough for Trump.
“ Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position , and I would like to thank her for her service, ” Trump tweeted Sunday.
He added US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would become acting secretary .
“ 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 , ” Nielsen said in a resignation letter she later shared on Twitter .
The move came just two days after she and Trump visited the Mexican border in California together , with the president delivering a stern message to would – be illegal immigrants and asylum seekers: “ Our country is full . ”
Despite warnings of dire economic consequences , including by top Republicans , Trump has repeatedly threatened to close the US- Mexico border , demanding that Congress and Central American governments act to stem a flow of migrants that saw Nielsen last week order an “ emergency surge” of personnel to handle the situation.
“ System has been broken for many years. Democrats in Congress must agree to fix loopholes – No Open Borders (Crimes & Drugs ). Will Close Southern Border If necessary …” he tweeted Sunday evening .
– ‘ Not extreme enough’ –
On Friday, US media reported that Trump also pulled his nominee to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department — saying he wanted someone “ tougher” at the helm of the Homeland Security sub – agency .
Together, the shake- ups were seen by observers as a sign the president wants to tack an even harder line.
Border Patrol estimates put the number of migrants passing through Mexico at over 100 , 000 in March , most from El Salvador , Honduras and Guatemala: the highest monthly figure in nearly a decade , according to Nielsen.
Trump cut aid to those three countries last month in response to the surge.
“ 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 , ” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added it was “ 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 . ”
Nielsen initially joined the Trump administration in January 2017 as an assistant to Trump ’ s first DHS secretary , John Kelly . When Kelly moved to the White House as Trump ’ s chief of staff in July 2017 , Nielsen went with him as his deputy .
But by October of that year she was back at DHS, this time as secretary . Disaster relief, cyber security , transportation security , the Coast Guard , customs and policing the borders all fall under the department ’ s purview.