April 8, 2019
Kirstjen Nielsen Out, What Next?
The top story over the last couple of days has been the forced resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The move has been anticipated for a while. Trump’s decision to push Nielsen out, however, comes after several weeks of news about increased border crossings. Nielsen was hardly a voice for sanity in this administration. She fully supported the child separation policy, and worked to turn Trump’s demagoguery into policy in other areas as well. Thus, her departure is not unwelcome on one hand. On the other, it likely signals that the administration may go even further down the nationalist road, raising the “border crisis” to an even more maniacal cry under the leadership of hardliner Stephen Miller, and fully appeasing the talking heads at Fox News.
The ousting of Nielsen came on the heels of Trump pulling the nomination of Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ron Vitiello, as permanent head of the department - “a move seen as part of a larger effort by Miller, an immigration hardliner, and his allies at the White House to clean house at the department and bring in more people who share their views, the people said.”
As Nielsen departs, Trump has appointed U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as Acting Secretary of DHS. McAleenan is not likely to last long in this position.
If this cleaning house is an effort to set up his team for the 2020 presidential election, the dynamics at the border are likely to disintegrate even further. We have some evidence of this from Trump’s rhetoric, which was, in the words of a CNN story, “scorching even by the standards of Trump himself,” over the weekend:
"Can't take you anymore. Can't take you. Our country is full ... Can't take you anymore, I'm sorry. So turn around. That's the way it is," Trump said in a message to asylum seekers during a trip to the border on Friday.
A day later, Trump mocked those fleeing persecution seeking a better life in the United States, portraying asylum seekers as criminals and gang members, rather than the families Nielsen described in a CNN interview last week.
"'I am very fearful for my life,'" Trump said mockingly during a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday. "I am very worried that I will be accosted if I am sent back home. No, no, he'll do the accosting!"
"Asylum, oh give him asylum! He's afraid!" Trump said.
Trump can only play one note on immigration: fear. While so many of us are continually shocked, offended, or simply angered by the fact-free and mean- spirited way he spins the issue, it is sobering to know this approach is part of what got him elected. Certainly, that is his understanding. There seems to be no rhetorical bar too low for him to crawl under.
18. More. Months.
While Trump instructed asylum seekers to return home because "the country is full," the Department of Homeland Security and the Labor Department are expanding the number of visas available to non-farm workers (H-2B visas) by 50% (from 66,000 to 96,000). From the New York Times:
Unions and immigration opponents argue that hiring H-2B workers suppresses wages and deprives Americans of jobs. Advocacy groups say foreign workers are often exploited, and employers say the cap encourages businesses to hire undocumented workers.
Andrea Palermo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, did not directly answer questions about what was behind the plan for additional H-2B visas. She also did not address questions about the apparent contradiction in the administration’s positions.
“Congress — not D.H.S. — should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress need to be modified, and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers’ temporary needs throughout the year,” she said.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
The lost children of U.S. Immigration Policy
Two years. It will take up to two years to track what happened to children seized at the border and/or separated from families. Two years!! From USA Today:
The filing Friday outlined the government's plan to use data analysis and manual reviews to sift through the cases of about 47,000 children who were apprehended by U.S. immigration officials from July 1, 2017, to June 25, 2018, to identify which children might have been taken from family members. It estimated the process "would take at least 12 months, and possibly up to 24 months."
Last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw expanded the number of migrant families that the government may be forced to reunite under his previous order after an inspector general report revealed that the administration had an undisclosed family separation pilot program in place starting in July of 2017. The ruling was made as part of a lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union.