US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen would be stepping down.
“US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” he tweeted.
“I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!” added the President.
Nielsen led the department’s efforts on immigration enforcement, disaster relief, election security and cybersecurity since she joined the Cabinet in December 2017, noted The Hill.
Nielsen took over for John Kelly as the head of DHS after he vacated the role to serve as White House chief of staff. Kelly left the White House in December of 2018.
Earlier this year, Nielsen became the public face of the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of migrant families that illegally crossed the southern border.
Nielsen stood at the podium in the White House briefing room in June, where she insisted the administration did not have a policy of separating families and that only Congress could address the underlying issue. Within days of her remarks, Trump signed an executive order ending the practice.
While she earned praise from the president for that performance, Nielsen was a regular target of Trump’s scorn as he sought to implement stricter immigration laws, noted The Hill. She reportedly considered resigning in May after he lashed out at her during a lengthy tirade during a Cabinet meeting.
Prior to her time in Trump’s Cabinet, Nielsen served in the George W. Bush administration in the Transportation Security Administration and on the Homeland Security Council.