Despite the heroism she displayed in becoming the public face of the Trump administration’s family separation policy—which she once claimed didn’t exist—Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security Secretary, was unceremoniously asked to resign during a meeting with President Trump early Sunday evening. The reasoning, in part, was that she’s reportedly not hardline enough for resident White House crypt keepers Stephen Miller and John Bolton. Although Nielsen isn’t technically leaving her post until Wednesday, here’s a look back at some of Nielsen’s worst moments as DHS chief anyway.
Nielsen reportedly endured a rocky relationship with President Trump—she can join the club—especially after her closest ally and fellow immigration hawk, former DHS secretary John Kelly, left the department after serving as Trump’s chief of staff. According to the New York Times, Trump frequently “called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum.”
That’s not to say Nielsen didn’t enjoy fleeting moments of Trump’s approval. The Washington Post reported yesterday that one particular “atta girl” moment came when Border Patrol officers deployed tear gas on Central American migrants attempting to break through a border fence in Tijuana in 2018.
Lied about family separation policy
In January 2018, Nielsen testified before Congress that the DHS “did not have a policy of family separation” resulting in thousands of migrant children being removed from the guardianship of their parents. It was later revealed that she signed off on an internal memo outlining a “zero tolerance” policy that called for the prosecution of every adult caught crossing the border that would result in children being taken from their parents.
“DHS could also permissibly direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted,” the memo read.
Didn’t know how many people died in DHS custody
Following the death of 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant Jaklin Caal Maquin, Nielsen was unable to give a precise figure as to how many migrants seeking asylum have died while in DHS custody when asked by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) during a Congressional hearing in December.
Rep. Cicilline: You do not know how many people have died in DHS custody?
DHS Sec. Nielsen: “I don’t have an exact figure”
Cicilline: “I’m talking about people who have died in your custody. You don’t have the number?”
Nielsen: “I will get back to you with the number.” pic.twitter.com/SxEmRe4CM2
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 20, 2018
Blamed migrant child’s death while in DHS custody on her family.
After Maquin passed away from dehydration and exhaustion while in border patrol custody, Nielsen told the empty little mannequins at Fox & Friends to shift blame over towards her family for trying to provide a better life for their kid by taking her to the United States, despite the fact that the Maquin reportedly started exhibiting symptoms eight hours after being detained by border patrol agents
FOX & FRIENDS: What do you know about the 7-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody?@SecNielsen: “This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally… I cannot stress [enough] how dangerous this journey is.” pic.twitter.com/bjFMdFlW3E
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 14, 2018
Had the audacity to eat at a Mexican restaurant after enacting “zero tolerance” policy against migrants crossing the Southern border.
Amid the controversy over border patrol agents putting migrant children apprehended at the Southern border in cages, Nielsen felt entitled to hold a “work dinner” at MXDC Cocina Mexicana, a high end Mexican restaurant in D.C. It didn’t take long for at least 15 protestors to show up and yell at her for having the audacity to dine at a Mexican restaurant.
“If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace,” protestors shouted at Nielsen, according to video footage captured by the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America. Nielsen left shortly after her dinner was interrupted.
DHS Secretary Nielsen just got driven out of a Mexican restaurant here on 14th Street by activists. DSA, I believe. pic.twitter.com/lTKutryXBO
— Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) June 20, 2018
Kirstjen, please never return to public life. Thanks!