Washington, Apr 8 : US President Donald Trump announced on Monday that US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is stepping down.
"Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service...." Trump said in a tweet adding that US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would become the acting homeland security chief.
"....I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!" Trump said. Nielsen's departure comes more than a year after she was confirmed to take over the post from John Kelly when he became the president's chief of staff. She served as Kelly's chief of staff before her Cabinet-level promotion.
"I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the Administration. We have implemented historic efforts to defend our borders, combat illegal immigration, obstruct the inflow of drugs, and uphold our laws and values," Nielson said in a statement.
Nielsen oversaw the DHS through a number of highly scrutinized actions on immigration policy, including the zero-tolerance approach to separating migrant children from their parents. Under the policy, the Trump administration sought to prosecute all adults who crossed the border illegally and more widely implement the child separation policy that previous administrations used more sparingly.
The policy over the spring and summer of 2018 left thousands of migrant children separated from parents and housed in tent cities. Criticism of the separations prompted Trump to sign an executive order ending the practice in June, though in October he said he was "looking at everything" when asked if he was considering a new family separation policy, UPI reported.
The outgoing homeland security secretary noted that the department "prevented the disruption of US elections and guarded against foreign interference in democracy."
She also added that a terrorist plotting against the United States was thwarted, and measures to block criminals from reaching the country were taken. Last month, Nielsen wrote an "urgent request" to Congress to grant the DHS resources and new powers to deport unaccompanied minors back to their home countries.
Under Nielsen's tenure, DHS also issued a new rule with the Department of Justice preventing people who cross the border illegally from seeking asylum. Trump signed a proclamation enforcing the rule last week. Under the new order, immigrants who cross illegally will be be held in detention until deportation, ending the "release" portion of the United States's so-called "catch and release" policy in which migrants are arrested and then freed pending a court date.
Nielsen previously worked in DHS as a senior legislative policy director for Transportation and Security Administration under President George W. Bush. In Bush's administration, she also served as special assistant to the president and senior director for prevention, preparedness and response on the White House Homeland Security Council. UNI