Amid Border Chaos, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns

April 7, 2019 Updated: April 7, 2019

WASHINGTON—Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned, according to a tweet posted by President Donald Trump on April 7.

“I would like to thank her for her service,” Trump wrote. “I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”

Nielsen was tapped to lead the agency after Gen. John Kelly left to take up the chief of staff position in the White House. She was sworn in on Dec. 6, 2017.

Nielsen is leaving amid what she recently called a “near complete system meltdown” in the border security system.

Nielsen wrote on Twitter on April 7: “It’s 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.”

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan during a press conference in Washington on Oct. 29, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Both Nielsen and McAleenan recently testified in front of Congress in separate hearings.

“At the current pace, we are on track to encounter close to one million illegal aliens at our southern border this year,”  Nielsen told the House Homeland Security Committee on March 6. 

“When you put all of the facts together, the problem is not just the vastly increasing numbers … but [also] the type of migrant that our system is not set up to protect,” Nielsen said. “Originally, it was single adults from Mexico. Now, it’s mostly Central Americans and the vast majority are vulnerable populations—which are families and children. All of that together is a crisis because the system is not built for that type of flow.”

McAleenan said Border Patrol is unable to secure the border, with almost 40 percent of its resources being diverted to deal with the large groups of Central Americans.

“With 55,000 families, including 40,000 children, expected to enter the process this month, we are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” McAleenan said on March 27.

“But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing at the border, I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”

border security Vitiello
Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Ron Vitiello at the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas, on March 21, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Trump is shaking up the whole agency, saying on April 5 that he intends to replace Ron Vitiello, his nomination to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), because the agency is “going in a little different direction.”

“Ron’s a good man. But we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction,” Trump said.

The Homeland Security Secretary leads the third-largest department of the U.S. government, with a workforce of 229,000 employees, according to its website. The agency’s 22 components include TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, FEMA, the Coast Guard, Secret Service, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, and the Science and Technology Directorate.

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