President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing to remove Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from her post, according to The Washington Post. Current and former White House officials familiar with the matter told the Post that her dismissal is likely to occur as early as next week.
Immigration hardliner John Kelly handpicked Nielsen as his replacement after being appointed White House chief of staff. The DHS secretary has had a contentious relationship with Trump since her first days in office.
The president has reportedly berated Nielsen repeatedly about her performance, “blaming her for a surge in illegal border crossings,” the Post reported, and for the lack of progress on the promised southern border wall.
Nielsen, however, is far from lax on immigration policy. After the Trump administration increased family separations at the border this past spring, detaining children as young as a few months old in juvenile detention facilities and deporting parents without their families, Nielsen peddled the lie that there was no policy of separating families at the border.
We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) June 17, 2018
DHS memos, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by Open the Government and the Project on Government Oversight, also reveal Nielsen was presented with a series of options on how to handle the so-called “zero tolerance” policy implemented by the Department of Justice. Nielsen signed off on the third option, which was described by DHS officials as “the most effective method to achieve operational objectives and the Administration’s goal to end ‘catch and release.'”
If the administration is measuring Nielsen’s success by how many undocumented immigrants have been detained or arrested, she excelled. According to numbers first reported by The Daily Beast, a record 44,000 people are currently detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The previous record high was just last year, at 38,000.
For all his anti-immigrant rhetoric, those numbers should make Trump happy. The record number of immigrants in detention is proof that ICE can’t keep up with the administration’s deportation demands. The 44,000 immigrants in detention exceeds the 40,520 detention beds funded by Congress and the department has requested more funding to fulfill the immigration goals of the White House.
But that isn’t enough for Trump, which is why Nielsen is reportedly on the chopping block. The fact that the president’s “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border remains unconstructed infuriates him, as it was a key promise of his presidential campaign.
Republicans are hoping to deliver on that promise during the lame-duck session, potentially sparking a government shut down over funding for the wall.