While she has received comparatively less attention than some of the other figures in Trumpworld, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has joined the ranks of the Trump immigration rogue’s gallery on immigration. The Trump team is a mix of hardliners and sycophants who are both steering and enabling an agenda that is deeply destructive to America’s interests and values. In Secretary Nielsen’s case, she’s quickly catching up by lying and obfuscating about the President’s racist comments, as well as about his deeply destructive immigration policy agenda.
Today Secretary Nielson appeared on a couple of stages:
- Priorities? What Priorities? On “CBS This Morning,” Secretary Nielsen noted that if legislation resolving Dreamers’ status is not addressed by Congress, “it’s not going to be a priority of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize their removal.” Got that? According to Nielsen, Dreamers should have nothing to worry about from an administration that already has ended DACA, has eviscerated immigration enforcement priorities, and whose ICE Director proudly trumpets that “there’s no population off the table” when it comes to enforcement and removal. In fact, Secretary Nielsen’s DHS already is targeting immigrants who would benefit from the Dream Act such as the 10-year old with cerebral palsy, Rosa Maria Hernandez; DACA recipient Osman Enriquez, whose reapplication was botched by the U.S. Postal Service; and Jorge Garcia – a Michigan man who had lived in America for three decades with no criminal record and has a U.S. citizen spouse and two U.S. citizen children. Garcia would have qualified for the Dream Act.
- Racist comments? What racist comments? Fresh off her disingenuous reassurances to Dreamers, Secretary Nielsen then went to Capitol Hill to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. While testifying, Nielsen claimed she “did not hear” President Trump’s infamous racist remarks at last Thursday’s White House meeting and offered a series of whitewashed characterizations of the proceedings. In response, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) noted, “Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.”
- Independence? What independence? Ms. Nielsen was a surprise choice for the DHS job. What are her qualifications? She is close to John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff. Kelly is the hardliner who the Washington Post reports worked to blow up the bipartisan deal that Trump was disposed to support and sell. Kelly is the hardliner who called from Asia to make sure that Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke did not extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans. The Washington Post reported, “As DHS officials prepared to make that announcement, Kelly made an urgent call from Japan, where he was traveling with President Trump. He was ‘irritated,’ administration officials said, and did not want his handpicked nominee for DHS secretary, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, to face potentially uncomfortable questions about TPS during her confirmation hearing.” In the same article, Nielsen was described as having “unwavering loyalty to the retired Marine Corps general.” John Kelly is the hardliner who made sure that the Trump administration initiated its everyone-is-a-priority strategy at DHS while advertising that the priority as “bad hombres.” Let’s tell the truth: Nielson is a Kelly plant who does his bidding at DHS.
The fact is, if urgently needed protections for Dreamers are going to be achieved, it will be despite the ongoing cowardice and complicity of Nielsen and her colleagues. After the Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blasted the White House staff that helped derail a potential bipartisan breakthrough, saying of a potential Dreamer legislative agreement, “we cannot do this with people in charge at the White House who have an irrational view of how to fix immigration.”
As she’s proven today, that list may start with Trump, Kelly and Stephen Miller, but now must include DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.