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 President Trump later folded and rescinded the policy after pressure from both parties.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

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ICE Launches Billboards With Images Of Undocumented Migrants In An Unprecedented Attack On The Community

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ICE Launches Billboards With Images Of Undocumented Migrants In An Unprecedented Attack On The Community

In what many say is an unprecedented move, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday it is launching a billboard campaign in Pennsylvania highlighting immigrants who have been labeled “at-large immigration violators.”

The billboard campaign is taking place in one of the nation’s most hotly contested swing states, just weeks out from the 2020 presidential election. And ICE says they’re want to highlight immigrants who were released by local law enforcement under so-called sanctuary policies who ICE says, “may pose a public safety threat.”

The agency has launched the billboard campaign as a boost to Trump’s “law & order” campaign, despite evidence showing that so-called sanctuary policies often have a positive impact on crime rates.

ICE has plastered immigration billboards across Pennsylvania.

In its continued attacks on the immigrant community in the country, the Trump administration has launched a billboard campaign across Pennsylvania that highlights immigration violators. ICE announced that it had placed several “WANTED” billboards across the state depicting immigrants recently arrested by local authorities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Experts are calling this an unprecedented move taken in a swing state a month before the November election.

The immigrants, who ICE said were not authorized to be in the U.S., were released after being charged — but not convicted — with crimes ranging from public intoxication and disorderly conduct, to robbery and aggravated assault. The billboards don’t attach a name to the mugshot but include charges like assault. A phone number for an ICE hotline is also listed.

According to John Sandweg, former acting ICE director, in an interview with CNN, billboards singling out immigration violators raise questions about what purpose they serve. “How are they getting funding for it? How does that advance their mission?” he said. “Running billboards, it’s political messaging.”Hotlines to solicit tips or campaigns to recruit personnel are common, Sandweg noted, but those are more clearly linked to helping to advance the agency’s enforcement mission.

The move is meant to target sanctuary cities and to bolster Trump’s campaign message of ‘law & order.’

The billboard campaign is part of a larger strategy meant to target the policies of so-called “sanctuary cities,” which limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Trump has repeatedly gone after these jurisdictions, arguing that they put public safety at risk, despite several studies that contradict his claims.

“Too often sanctuary policies limiting cooperation with ICE result in significant public safety concerns,” said Tony Pham, the senior official performing the duties of the ICE director. “ICE will continue to enforce immigration laws set forth by Congress through the efforts of the men and women of ICE to remove criminal aliens and making our communities safer.”

Many of the largest cities in the country have sanctuary policies in place. The leaders behind them argue that such policies make communities safer because undocumented immigrants are more likely to report crimes  if they don’t fear deportation.

Several ex-officials have come out against the move, calling it “wildly inappropriate.”

As many experts call the billboard campaign an unprecedented move, several former U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have criticized the Trump administration for erecting the billboards. They say that the public messaging campaign exacerbates concerns about the politicization of immigration enforcement.

“The placement and the timing — the placement being Pennsylvania and the timing being a month before the election — make it clear that this is a political move, not related to operational matters,” David Lapan, a retired U.S. Marine colonel and former DHS press secretary during the Trump administration, told CBS News. “We’re almost four years into the administration. Why wasn’t this done sooner if that was something they thought was important?”

John Sandweg, who led ICE on an acting basis during the Obama administration, said he doesn’t believe the agency “has ever done anything” like the billboards. “It’s a political advertisement in favor of the president or at a minimum, against politicians that they disagree with. And that’s just wildly inappropriate,” Sandweg told CBS News.

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ICE Is Launching A New Round Of Raids To Boost Trump’s ‘Law And Order’ Campaign

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ICE Is Launching A New Round Of Raids To Boost Trump’s ‘Law And Order’ Campaign

Despite a growing number of immense challenges across the country, the Trump administration is planning a major offensive against the migrant community. Although he’s in the hospital battling the Coronavirus, Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is working to instill fear in the undocumented community with a new round of immigration raids.

The new operation is set to launch this week and will specifically target sanctuary cities and counties to help support Trump’s campaign talk of ‘law & order.’

Already, the nation’s immigrant communities – particularly the Latinx community – are reeling from increased risk of Coronavirus infection to higher rates of unemployment. Now, the community is being forced to consider their next steps as ICE agents roll into major cities across the country to step up enforcement actions.

ICE is launching a new round of immigration raids just weeks before the election.

In what is an obvious attempt to cast himself as the ‘law & order’ president, Trump’s ICE agency is planning a large scale immigration campaign beginning this week. The new campaign will target arrests in U.S. cities and jurisdictions that have adopted “sanctuary” policies, according to three U.S. officials, who spoke to the Washington Post.

The operation, known informally as the “sanctuary op,” will likely launch in California before expanding to other cities, including Denver and Philadelphia. Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, probably will travel to at least one of the cities where the operation will take place to boost President Trump’s claims that leaders in those cities have failed to protect residents from dangerous criminals, two officials told The Post.

Two officials told The Post anonymously that the operation is more about getting a political message across than a major operation by ICE, stressing that the agency is already working hard to combat violators of immigration policy daily, often without much publicity.

Trump hopes to target sanctuary cities to send the message that Democrats are weak on crime.

The Trump Administration has made no secret of its contempt for cities and other jurisdictions that have enacted so-called sanctuary policies. In fact, ICE has repeatedly threatened cities and counties with such policies with increased enforcement actions, saying they’ll send more agents to make arrests in their jurisdictions if they continue advocating such policies.

Cities that normally operate with sanctuary policies usually refuse to hold immigrants in jail longer than they are required so that ICE officers can take them into custody. Although ICE agents are still able to pick up people suspected of immigration violations, they do so without the help of local law enforcement such as a coordinated handover. It means that ICE agents usually have a much harder time picking up wanted people in cities which do not officially cooperate with the agency.

“Generally speaking, as ICE has noted for years, in jurisdictions where cooperation does not exist and ICE is not allowed to assume custody of aliens from jails, ICE is forced to arrest at-large criminal aliens out in the communities instead of under the safe confines of a jail,’ said Mike Alvarez, an ICE spokesman.

ICE has long floated possible campaigns meant to capture as many migrants as possible.

The idea for a campaign publicizing criminal arrests in sanctuary cities has been floated repeatedly during the Trump administration, two officials said, and was under consideration actively this spring before the Coronavirus pandemic. After the outbreak, ICE deferred some of its enforcement plans, citing health risks, and during that time, the agency’s arrests dropped by about one-third, statistics show.

Just last year, the White House had pushed for a “family op”, with the intent of targeting migrant parents with children. However, the operation failed to gain the number of arrests that Trump had wanted so it was scrapped. The president tipped off that operation, announcing it in a tweet. Some ICE officials privately attributed the operation’s underwhelming results to Trump’s boasting and indiscipline.

Another such plan – meant to punish sanctuary cities – was to bus asylum-seeking migrants from the border and drop them off in San Francisco, a city with a sanctuary policy. It was met with widespread ridicule.

However, operations such as these do have profound impacts on migrant communities. As news of enforcement operations such as these spread, many immigrants go deeper underground, living in fear that they may be arrested and deported while their children – often times U.S. citizens – will be left behind.

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