Things That Matter

Homeland Security Chief Kirstjen Nielsen Has Resigned, Here’s What Happened Under Her Tumultuous Tenure

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is stepping down in a move that signals the end of a controversial tenure. During her short time as secretary, Nielsen oversaw the “zero tolerance” policy in 2018 that resulted in the separation of thousands of families attempting to cross at the US-Mexico border. President Trump tweeted about Nielsen stepping down amidst reports that he wasn’t satisfied with her performance. This comes as the number of Central American people illegally entering the country has surged, which was a big factor in Nielsen’s resignation. While Nielsen might be leaving, the damage to the U.S. immigration system is done and the victims of the cruel policies are forever changed by the experience. Here’s Nielsen’s legacy at DHS.

More than 2,700 families were separated, two children died, and troops were deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border during Kirstjen Nielsen’s leadership.


Credit: @MariaTeresa1 / Twitter

Nielsen will be remembered for overseeing the widespread separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border last year. More than 2,500 children were separated from their parents, including families legally presenting themselves at the border for asylum. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program in May 2018. President Trump later folded and rescinded the policy after pressure from both parties.

She had defended the “zero tolerance” policy for border crossings and continued to insist there was no official policy for separating families. However, the fact remains that the Trump administration did implement the policy and Nielsen’s Department of Homeland Security enforced it.

As the number of asylum seekers grew and caravans headed to the U.S-Mexico border, Nielsen requested more help.

Credit: @MrFilmkritik / Twitter

Last October, 5,200 troops were deployed to support 16,500 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers along the southern border to help with the incoming caravan. Many called the move an election-year ploy to incite hatred and fear.

It was the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died under CBP custody on Dec. 8 that got people talking. Maquin’s death occurred just days after she was apprehended and reignited the emotional debate over immigration in Congress.

Nielsen oversaw a huge increase in immigration detention that has been widely criticized for inhumane conditions.


Credit: @IllhanMN / Twitter

Nielsen has presided over a record number in immigration detentions due to controversial policies. The number of detained immigrants had grown from slightly over 40,000 in fall 2018 to 50,000 in early 2019. Images of children in chain link cages where a common sight in many of these facilities and caused an uproar with many immigration rights groups.

She was also behind the Migrant Protection Protocols where hundreds of Central American asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico to wait for their U.S. immigration court dates. The policy, which was announced in January, was struck down by a federal judge on Monday.

The resignation also comes days after the U.S. government said it could take up to two years to reunite migrant children separated at the border with their parents due to poor record keeping prior to April 2018.

The resignation got a reaction from many in Congress who are hopeful to see change in the department.


Credit: @SenKamalaHarris / Twitter

Senator Kamala Harris tweeted that Nielsen’s resignation was “long overdue” and wouldn’t support a new nominee that “does not forcefully denounce this administration’s policy of separating families at the border.

Hilary Clinton chimed in as well saying even after the resignation, nothing much has changed. “Let’s be clear: This administration’s dehumanization and cruelty toward migrants will not stop after Kirstjen Nielsen leaves office. It is their principal policy,” Clinton tweeted.

What’s next for the Department of Homeland Security and will anything change after Nielsen’s resignation?

According the NY Times, President Trump had requested that Nielsen close ports of entry along the border and to stop accepting asylum seekers, which she didn’t agree with. Nielsen cited federal laws and international commitments that made closing ports of entry and rejecting asylum seekers illegal. This fueled Nielsen’s resignation and is a signal that the administration is looking to push tougher border policies.

In her resignation letter, Nielsen said it was the right time for her to step down. She also noted that her successor would need to make changes to existing immigration laws before the border could be secured.

It was announced less than a day later that Kevin McAleenan, the head of Customs and Border Protection, will serve as acting DHS secretary until a formal successor is nominated.

While Nielsen’s tenure was marked with controversy, it was also fueled by an administration determined to make a statement with it’s policies at the border. With a growing number of asylum requests and overcrowded detention centers, Nielsen’s departure was expected.

While Trump could nominate someone who is “more aggressive” when it comes to border policy, he’s going to have to get through the U.S. Senate. If the Trump administration has proven anything is it doesn’t matter who leaves their position because they’ll find someone who will satisfy their demands.

READ: Autopsy Report Shows Jakelin Caal Maquin Died Of A Bacterial Infection, Not Dehydration As Trump Alleges

This Migrant’s Rights Group Wants To See A Mass Exodus Of ICE Employees And They Are Launching Programs To Help

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This Migrant’s Rights Group Wants To See A Mass Exodus Of ICE Employees And They Are Launching Programs To Help

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It seems like every week news breaks that their has been another death of someone in ICE’s custody or the agency is embroiled in some new scandal or cruel policy targeting migrants. One organization has finally had enough and is urging ICE employees to stage a mass exodus from organization.

Never Again Action is a group dedicated to preventing another holocaust and they have been very vocal in their attacks against ICE and the agency’s cruelty. Now, the group is taking their advocacy to the next level and is offering support to ICE employees who want to leave their roles and find different work.

Never Again Action is offering ICE employees dedicated, free career help if they quit their job at ICE.

An immigration advocacy group has launched a new website offering U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement workers seeking to leave the embattled agency free and anonymous career support.

The Never Again Action group’s Atlanta branch launched the website, saying it wanted to put out the call for a “mass exodus and atonement” for ICE workers “as we approach Yom Kippur.”

With the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, taking place on Tuesday, the group said it was the perfect time for ICE workers to “quit your jobs.”

The organization claims they’ve already had one ICE employee seek their help in leaving their role with ICE.


According to Never Again Action, the immigration advocacy group that launched the service, at least one ICE agent has already come forward to ask for help quitting their job and finding a new one.

“We’ve already had one ICE agent reach out to us,” the group, which was organized by Jewish community members in the U.S. determined to “never let anything like the Holocaust happen again,” said in a tweet on Monday.

The organization is moving to help avoid another holocaust by ridding the government organization of employees, according to their platform.

Branding the U.S.’s treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees an “atrocity,” the website tells ICE workers: “You don’t have to work for ICE. We will help you find a better job. You don’t have to be complicit in the atrocities happening at our nation’s border and within our immigration system,” it states.

“We know quitting your job isn’t always easy, so we’re offering FREE and CONFIDENTIAL job search support so you can find a better job,” the website continues, before outlining how it will help ICE workers change their career paths.

The organization also appears to be making good on its word to help agents do just that, setting up a career support website that will match ICE workers with a “qualified career adviser.”

While it makes clear that organizers cannot guarantee ICE workers a new job, their volunteer career advisers are “dedicated to supporting you through the job hunting process so you can quit your ICE job quickly.”

The organization is offering qualified career advisors with MBAs, professional career counseling, or professional recruiting experience. And, according to their website, ‘every advisor is dedicated to giving you the support you need to find a new, better job quickly.’

“We know it’s easy for protesters to chant ‘quit your job,’ but that it’s a lot easier said than done,” the website states. “We know you have bills to pay, and might have family members relying on your salary or health benefits. That’s why we’re providing this free and confidential service: to help you find a new and better job, so you can quit your ICE job as quickly as possible.”

In a statement, ICE expressed disappointment and disgust at the organization’s initiative.

ICE sent a statement to Newsweek, ICE Acting Press Secretary Bryan Cox struck out at the initiative, calling any attempt at “demonizing career law enforcement officials…disgraceful.”

“ICE holds its personnel to the highest standards of professional and ethical behavior, and ICE employees will continue to carry out their duties professionally regardless of irresponsible rhetoric that needlessly spreads fear and misinformation that does a disservice to the communities these groups claim to represent,” Cox said.

But many aren’t buying into that narrative and recognize the grave atrocities committed by ICE against migrants.

From workplace raids that left children alone and afraid to denying basic necessities to those already in their custody and even the deaths of dozens of people, ICE is in desperate need of reform. Even those who aren’t necessarily calling for abolishing ICE, recognize that there is a great need for major institutional reforms.

US Immigration Officials Are Using Google Translate To Read Migrant’s Social Media Posts Instead Of Hiring Actual Translators

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US Immigration Officials Are Using Google Translate To Read Migrant’s Social Media Posts Instead Of Hiring Actual Translators

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The Trump administration’s cruel and unjust immigration policy continues to permeate every aspect of the refugee admittance infrastructure. The International Refugee Assistance Project and ProPublica shared internal documents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that revealed the organization uses online translators to review refugees’ social media posts. A practice that is problematic in and of itself, only made worse by unreliable machine translation tools. 

The organization argues reviewing social media posts is “common sense” vetting, while human translators, language experts, and immigration advocates strongly disagree. Many feel poor translations can be make or break for refugees who are in dire need of admittance into the U.S., and even Google concedes their best tools are no substitute for human translators. 

Advocates expose USCIS for using Google translate to vet refugees’ social media posts.

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) obtained an internal manual used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency responsible for admitting immigrants. IRAP released the manual to ProPublica who revealed the manual advises officials to use free online translation services from Google, Yahoo, and Bing. While the document is mostly redacted, the visible parts show a step-by-step process for using Google Translate. 

“The most efficient approach to translate foreign language contents is to utilize one of the many free online language translation services provided by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.” the manual states. 

“It defies logic that we would use unreliable tools to decide whether refugees can reunite with their families,” Betsy Fisher, strategy director at IRAP, told ProPublica. “We wouldn’t use Google Translate for our homework, but we are using it to keep refugee families separated.”

Even Google says Google Translate is unreliable.

In the company’s disclaimer, they urge users to remember Google Translate is no substitution for a human translator. 

Users should be aware, “reasonable efforts have been made to provide an accurate translation, however, no automated translation is perfect nor is it intended to replace human translators.”

The issue with poor translations is, simply put, the stakes are too high. Online translators cannot capture the subtleties and nuances of language that a fluent or native speaker can. Yet, officials rely on these poor translations to determine the fate of refugees. Particularly when slang is used, the government takes the risk of misinterpreting innocuous comments as being harmful or threatening. 

“It’s naive on the part of government officials to do that,” said Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science and comparative literature at Indiana University at Bloomington. “I find it deeply disheartening and stupid and shortsighted, personally.”

USCIS defends “stupid and shortsighted” policy.

You might be asking yourself: why are they looking at refugees’ social media posts in the first place? 

 “Social media reviews include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, along with general internet searches (e.g., Google). Social media checks are designed to identify publicly available information in applicants’ social media postings that may impact eligibility for their immigration filing,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“This could include information related to their claim for refugee status, information indicating potential fraud (such as identity fraud or document fraud), or information regarding criminal activity or national security concerns that would impact eligibility and admissibility. USCIS may only look at publicly available information and will respect users’ privacy settings.”

As ProPublica points out, in 2017, Facebook apologized after it translated a Palestinian man saying “good morning” as “hurt them” in English, and “attack them” in Hebrew. It’s so transparently racist, you almost want to laugh. 

USCIS admits they’re wrong but continues to be a mess. 

ProPublica claims an undated draft of an internal USCIS document, published by the Daily Beast, states their pilot social media program found that, “automatic foreign language translation was not sufficient.” 

In another review of the pilot conducted in 2016, USCIS found that  “native Arabic language and subject matter expertise in regional culture, religion, and terrorism was needed to fully vet” two cases to determine if there was truly threatening information. 

Online translators have failed Latinx people before.

In 2017, a Kansas highway patrol trooper conducted a warrantless search of a Mexican man’s car by using Google Translate to ask for consent in Spanish. The U.S. district judge threw out the evidence gathered in the search, determining the man did not understand the officer’s commands or questions. 

Language requires more than an understanding of grammar and vocabulary, it requires cultural literacy, an understanding of satire and irony, and knowledge of slang. Under the Trump administration, social media auditing has increased to the extent that visa forms require applicants to include social media handles. This is a part of a disturbing trend in which citizens’ and non-citizens’ freedom of speech is being counted against them.