From Words & Deeds blog
President Donald Trump fired Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen after she told him federal court orders prohibited reinstating the policy of large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border, according to NBC News, citing three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House.
Convinced that large-scale separation of families crossing the border has been the only effective course of action for stopping asylum seekers, Trump has been pushing this policy since January. Former Secretary Nielsen had no moral reservations about locking kids up. She only opposed Trump on legal grounds. And now she’s gone.
Neilsen’s departure comes as the administration predicted in court on Friday it could take two years to identify all families affected by the previous separations policy.
In a perfect universe, the former Secretary should spend the rest of her days coping with nightmares about being trapped in a cage surrounded by crying children. Instead, she’ll likely end up on Fox News, defending the indefensible.
Kevin McAleenan, current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will serve as Acting Secretary for DHS. He is reportedly is less resistant to family separation and has not ruled out giving families a choice: Enter long term detention with your kids, or say goodbye to them.
Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar responded to the news by pointing out that it was McAleenan who “commanded the CBP officers who physically separated over 2,800 children from their parents, was in charge when CBP fired tear gas on a crowd of migrants seeking asylum, and failed to disclose details about the death of a child in CBP custody to Congress.”
DHS Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady, who under 6 USC §113(g) would be the (legitimate) Acting DHS Secretary once Nielsen leaves, will be transferred or fired to make way for McAleenan.
In case, you haven’t read between the lines here, obeying the law isn’t a concern for this administration these days.
To date, 17 senior administration figures have departed, with the Secretaries of Defense, Interior, Homeland Security, White House chief of staff and ambassador to the United Nations all filled in an acting capacity.
The President said he likes having people “acting” in key roles as it gives him “more flexibility” but critics have questioned the constitutionality of the practice.
According to CBS News, which first reported Nielsen’s departure, the change in leadership at DHS yet another victory for Stephen Miller, the far-right senior adviser in the White House who has consistently steered the president in a hardline direction on immigration.
Last week it was revealed Miller convinced Trump to drop his appointee for ICE after Senate Leader Mitch McConnell changed the rules to push the president’s appointees through faster and without public debate.
Trump reportedly dismissed current ICE acting director Ronald Vitiello from consideration for the permanent position because Miller wanted someone “tougher.”
Miller has also recently been telephoning mid-level officials at several federal departments and agencies to angrily demand that they do more to stem the flow of immigrants into the country, according to two people familiar with the calls.
The pressure comes as Trump, who forced a government shutdown over his demand for a Mexican border wall, is again making immigration the central theme of his presidency; last week, Trump backed off his threats to shut down the border entirely.
The officials at the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State, who each handle different parts of the immigration process, were initially surprised that a high-ranking White House official like Miller would call them directly, rather than contact their bosses.
“It’s intimidation,” one of the people who was briefed on the calls told POLITICO. “Anytime you get a call like this from the White House it’s intimidation … Under normal circumstances, if you were a deputy in one of these agencies, it would be very unusual.”
What will they do next? Think of the worst thing they can do. Doesn't matter if it's legal. Doesn't matter if it's moral. Doesn't matter if there's no precedent. Doesn't matter if they get caught, so long they don't get punished.
Why will they do it? Because they can.
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) December 24, 2018
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