Senate confirms Kirstjen Nielsen as homeland security chief

Kirstjen Nielsen

Kirstjen Nielsen

Nielsen, like Duke, has a close relationship with President Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly. Nielsen later followed Kelly to the White House to become his deputy chief of staff.

Nielsen will fill the vacancy left by former DHS Secretary John Kelly, who left the department in July to serve as President Donald Trump's chief of staff. Nielsen, who served as Kelly's chief of staff at the DHS, will replace the acting secretary, Elaine Duke, who has led the DHS since Kelly left.

"By confirming Ms. Nielsen's nomination to lead the DHS, this Senate will take a serious step to strengthen our nation's security", Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement.

Nielsen faced challenges from Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who said she lacked experience leading a large agency. They also cited concerns about possible White House interference in a recent DHS decision to send home thousands of Nicaraguans and Haitians long granted US protection.

As we reported in October, Michael Dougherty, assistant DHS secretary for Border Immigration and Trade, said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 3 that the Trump administration would support legislation allowing illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to gain lawful permanent status and eventually citizenship. Nielsen said the federal government should adjust its modeling and preparation for dealing with weather events related to climate changes, but refused to acknowledge the alleged human contributions to those changes. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander did not vote, and no Republicans voted against her confirmation.

"She has equivocated on protecting Dreamers and overlooked reports of DHS' management failures", Harris said.

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Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice Education Fund, which promotes immigrants' rights, said Trump has worked to punish immigrants and refugees, from his call to build a wall along the Mexican border to the partial travel ban to raids against immigrants.

She served on the White House Homeland Security Council under President George W. Bush.

Nielsen, a cybersecurity expert, said she views cybersecurity as the most important issue that the DHS will address under her leadership.

She also condemned white nationalism, rejected Islamophobia and promised to make cybersecurity a top priority.

Homeland Security has been leading the charge on implementing Trump's aggressive immigration agenda, and Nielsen pledged to continue that work.

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