The homeland security secretary was hardly an unwilling participant in President Donald Trump’s controversial policies but had been increasingly criticised by her boss.

The forced resignation of Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, marks another in a long line of departures from a chaotic White House.

Nielsen was hardly a moderate in the Trump administration or an unwilling participant in its policies. Nielsen became the public defender and torchbearer of Trump’s signature and his most controversial policies.

Her announcement on social media that she had resigned resulted in a flurry of people condemning her record of enabling the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is, amongst other things, charged with ensuring border and immigration enforcement, emergency responses to natural and manmade disasters and antiterrorism. All of these policy sectors have played a significant role in Donald Trump's policymaking since taking office.

Charlottesville and white supremacist violence

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville attack in which the white nationalist James Alex Fields  rammed his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, leaving one dead and 20 injured, Trump famously said: “I think there is blame on both sides.”

The event marked a particularly low point in his presidency.

A year later in July 2018, Nielsen was asked about the president's comments and his response to the Charlottesville attack, to which she claimed, "it's not that one side is right, one side is wrong", adding that "anybody that is advocating violence, we need to work to mitigate."

The remarks were widely seen as an equivocation of a white supremacist. 

Trump’s war on migrants

In the spring of 2018, the then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump’s new ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy.

The controversial policy entailed persecuting anyone caught illegally entering the United States and soon resulted in a national and global outcry.

Nielsen in her capacity as secretary of the DHS was tasked with implementing the policy. Soon after, news emerged that DHS officers were arresting children and separating them from their parents.

In a period of fewer than two months, more than 3,000 children had been affected by the policy.

At the time Nielsen claimed that the Trump administration “never had a policy for family separation,” adding: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

It quickly became clear that there was indeed such a policy and the Trump administration had lost track of more than 1,500 migrant children.

Soon after Nielsen’s resignation, reports have emerged that Trump would often call the DHS secretary early in the mornings demanding that she stop immigration to the US by any means necessary and in possible contravention of national and international laws. 

Teargassing asylum seekers

In the run-up to the November midterm elections, Trump weaponised the migration debate by concocting the image of the violent migrant ‘caravan’ swarming from Central America through Mexico with its final destination being the US.

This culminated in DHS officers tear gassing migrants and asylum seekers at the US border.

At the time Nielsen defended the actions of her department by stating: “The violence we saw at the border was entirely predictable. This caravan, unlike previous caravans, had already entered #Mexico violently and attacked border police in two other countries.”

The actions of the DHS drew widespread condemnation both nationally and internationally, further drawing attention to the controversial migration policies of the Trump administration.  

Who will replace her? 

Trump announced on Twitter that Kevin McAleenan, the current US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner would become the next Secretary of the DHS.

In the days leading up to Nielsen’s resignation, Trump started using harsher rhetoric expressing his frustration at the increasing number of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

McAleenan will, like his predecessor, find it increasingly hard to meet the president’s expectations and like others before him could face the president’s wrath. 

Source: TRT World