Immediately following President Donald Trump’s announcement that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was resigning, Democrats doubled down on their criticism, recalling her defense of the administration’s policy of separating migrant families seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would replace Nielsen as acting secretary.
While certain lawmakers said it was time for Neilsen to go, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) identified her departure as a sign that Trump’s own staffers “aren’t radical enough” to suit his positions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed similar sentiments, saying Nielsen’s replacement should be someone “who will respect the sanctity of families, honor our proud heritage as a nation of immigrants and restore sanity to this Administration’s policies.”
“It is deeply alarming that the Trump Administration official who put children in cages is reportedly resigning because she is not extreme enough for the White House’s liking,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The President’s dangerous and cruel anti-immigrant policies have only worsened the humanitarian suffering at the border and inflicted vast suffering on the families who have been torn apart.”
2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), who, like Schumer, opposed Nielsen, welcomed her departure, calling her unqualified and ripping her over her defense of “inhumane” treatment of migrants.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), another staunch opponent of the Trump administration, decried the use of “cages” for migrants under Nielsen’s tenure, suggesting the president “fired her because she wasn’t cruel enough.”
The rebukes were echoed by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who called Nielsen’s time in office “a disaster from the start.”
“It is clearer now more than ever that the Trump Administration’s border security and immigration policies ― that she enacted and helped craft ― have been an abysmal failure and have helped create the humanitarian crisis at the border,” he said in a statement Sunday.
Though Nielsen reportedly privately argued with Trump over family separations, she maintained her defense of the practice in public, claiming it was not a policy.
In her resignation letter, Nielsen said she “determined that it is the right time for me to step aside.”
“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.”