WASHINGTON - In a move that has been expected for months, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is stepping down.
Nielsen has struggled to control the flow of illegal immigration across the border. The president announced her departure via tweet Sunday.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
Three days ago, with Nielsen by his side, the president visited the US-Mexico border and voiced his frustration.
"The system is full, and when it's full, there is nothing you can do about it. You have to say, 'I'm sorry, we can't take you,'" Trump said.
Her temporary replacement is US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. His background is a sign the president sees immigration as the key component for the $40 billion Homeland Security Department.
In her resignation letter, Nielsen writes, "I hope that the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America's borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation's discourse."
Its 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. pic.twitter.com/lIQ5iqGDmF
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 7, 2019
Democrats on Capitol Hill seem happy she's gone, but expressed concern about harsher immigration policies to come.
"Secretary Nielsen oversaw a department that separated families at the border....I'm concerned by the reports that she is resigning because she was not extreme enough," tweeted Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
This all comes as record-setting numbers of migrants are coming over the southern border, redlining the border patrol's capability to handle them all.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) told Fox News Sunday he believes the increase is from people legally seeking asylum.
"When the Department of Homeland security is reporting these numbers, I don't believe they are accurately describing these with the number of people that are turning themselves in versus those who are being apprehended," he explained.
Republicans say the policy allowing asylum seekers to stay in the country while their cases are heard is part of the problem.
"We're seeing unaccompanied young people as well as families with lots of kids, pouring into our border and they say the magic word 'I'm seeking asylum'," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told Meet the Press.
"We don't begin to have the space in our facilities to maintain the kind of care these people deserve….It's going to take some legislation to get it fixed," he continued.
McAleenan joins a growing list of "acting" department heads stepping in to fill Trump administration vacancies at ICE, the Pentagon, and the White House Chief of Staff.
The "flexibility" is something the president has said he likes.