Rumors have swirled around Kirstjen Nielsen for months, with reports indicating that she was close to resigning or being fired. Now, it’s official: Nielsen is out as the secretary of Homeland Security. The announcement comes just days after President Donald Trump visited the southern border amid a huge spike in immigration.
President Trump announced the move in a tweet: “Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service.”
She will be replaced by Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner. Nielsen was long seen as a close ally of former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. With Kelly having resigned from his role, many have speculated that Nielsen’s days were numbered.
Nielsen lasted longer than many believed. Nielsen often drew flak for Homeland Security’s tough treatment towards immigrants. Families have been separated, detained individuals have been kept under bridges, and some have died in custody. Regardless, President Trump has at times blamed her for the spike in immigration.
The president has also been blaming Mexico, which has struggled to stem the flow of migrants from Central America to the United States. A severe drought in Guatemala, rampant crime, and various other issues have sparked a wave of mass immigration. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has taken a more relaxed approach to deportation as well.
However, President Trump has threatened to completely close off the border if Mexico doesn’t cooperate. A closed border would cause economic havoc for both countries. So far, comments from President Obrador and other Mexican officials have suggested that the country is looking to head off any confrontation with the United States. Obrador has suspended a humanitarian visa program that made it easier for migrants to reach the United States.