President Donald Trump is frustrated that migrants continue to exist. He’s taking it out on his own administration. On Sunday, the president jettisoned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has been carrying out his historically aggressive approach to the border, because she refused to break the law. A few days earlier, he rescinded his nomination of Ronald Vitiello for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement director as part of an effort to go in a “tougher direction.” On Monday, the New York Times reported that additional high-ranking Homeland Security officials are likely to be given their walking papers as Trump continues to fumble for ways to seal off the border.
Some Republicans have gone so far as to say they are “concerned,” their default response whenever Trump does something they don’t agree with but won’t take action to stop. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who last week was brave enough to publicly challenge Trump’s claim that wind turbines cause cancer, told the Washington Post that he is “very, very concerned” that the president appears poised to fire U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Francis Cissna, as well as other DHS officials. “One, those are good public servants,” Grassley said. “Secondly, besides the personal connection I have with them and the qualifications they have, they are the intellectual basis for what the president wants to accomplish in immigration.”
“The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he’s made for his campaign, throughout his two and a half years of presidency,” he added. “He’s pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal.”
"Very, Very Concerned" will be a good title for a book by some historian on the behavior of Congressional Republicans, 2017-2020.https://t.co/oOWRZnnlVU
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) April 9, 2019
Grassley isn’t the only one who’s worried. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) also dropped the C-word while speaking with the Times. “I am concerned with a growing leadership void within the department tasked with addressing some of the most significant problems facing the nation,” he said.
Cissna is one of several officials reported to be on the chopping block. According to the Times, Trump also plans to fire Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, one of Cissna’s deputies, and DHS General Counsel John Mitnick, who served on Nielsen’s leadership team. The administration is also trying to force the resignation of Claire Grady so U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan can be installed as acting homeland security secretary. Grady, currently the department’s acting deputy secretary, is next in line to replace Nielsen and would need to be removed before McAleen can take over. Grady has said that she will not step aside voluntarily.
Not even the Secret Service is safe. Earlier on Monday, the White House announced the departure of Director Randolph Alles, whom Trump reportedly had taken to calling “Dumbo” on account of what the president believed to be oversized ears.
The scorched-earth strategy appears to be influenced by Trump adviser Stephen Miller. Grassley is not a fan, apparently. “I think it would be hard for him to demonstrate he’s accomplished anything for the president,” Grassley said of the immigration hawk while speaking to the Post. “It’s pretty hard to elaborate on it when there hasn’t been any accomplishments,” he added when asked to elaborate.
While speaking to the Times, Grassley said he believes administration officials who talk a big game about immigration are looking for scapegoats as the problem persists despite their hardline approach. “Without names, there’s people in the White House that speak about immigration,” he said. “They haven’t accomplished a whole lot, so they need to find some other way to make themselves look important.”
Cleaning out the upper echelons of the DHS is only one facet of the president’s desperation play to keep migrants out of the United States. On Monday, NBC News reported that he has been trying to illegally reinstitute “large-scale” family separation since January. Nielsen’s refusal to do so is reportedly what led to her ouster.
CNN reports that he’s also been telling border agents to break the law in an effort to keep migrants from crossing the border. According to two sources, Trump told border agents that if a judge gives them trouble over refusing to let migrants in, that they should just say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.” When the agents asked their superiors what they should do, they were told to ignore Trump and abide by the law, which allows migrants who cross the border to seek asylum in the United States. On Monday, a federal judge in California blocked a move from the Trump administration that would have forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while awaiting their hearings in the United States. Trump was not pleased.
A 9th Circuit Judge just ruled that Mexico is too dangerous for migrants. So unfair to the U.S. OUT OF CONTROL! https://t.co/XF8o3jMDle
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 9, 2019
Trump has also threatened to close the border entirely. He did so last week before ultimately backing off the threat and giving Mexico a one-year deadline to prevent drugs from the crossing the border. He renewed the threat again on Sunday, writing on Twitter that “we will have no other choice than to Close the Border and/or institute Tariffs” if Mexico does not prevent migrants from reaching the U.S. border.
According to CNN, before Nielsen was forced to resign she tried to explain to Trump that if he were to close the ports of entry, it would only serve to end legal trade, as migrants would simply enter where there was not a port. “I don’t care,” replied Trump.