Kirstjen Nielsen is leaving her post as head of the Department of Homeland Security, and the departure of the official behind the controversial “zero tolerance” policy that led to immigrant children being taken away from their parents is being met with celebration online.
Donald Trump announced Nielsen’s departure after a meeting with her in the White House on Sunday. As CBS News reported, Trump offered a short statement thanking Nielsen for her service and announcing that the current commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, would be moving into a role as acting DHS head.
But elsewhere, Nielsen’s decision to leave the Trump administration was met with celebration and a new round of criticism for the woman who became the face of the controversial “zero tolerance” policy. Nielsen vigorously defended the policy, saying it was the fault of Democrats in Congress for failing to close loopholes in the law. The administration stuck by the policy for several weeks after it first came to light, even in the face of international criticism.
The excuse that the policy was the fault of Democrats was met with criticism as well, as members of the Trump administration had made it clear that the “zero tolerance” policy was their own doing in an effort to crack down on immigration. Previous administrations had no policy to separate children from their parents and only placed children in detention facilities if they arrived at the border unaccompanied.
“As long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, DHS will not look the other way,” Nielsen told reporters at the time, via CBS News.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 7, 2019
Critics also noted that many of those crossing the border were doing so legally in an effort to seek asylum. The idea that the policy was the result of loopholes caused by Democrats was later blown up when Trump, in the face of worldwide criticism, announced that his administration would no longer separate children from their parents.
On social media, many celebrated Nielsen’s resignation and noted that her legacy would always be intertwined with the controversial policy.
Kirstjen Nielsen—who separated thousands of refugee children from their families—and made no plan to ever reunite them—or even keep track of who the children were—and left such a mess that it will take over two years to get the families reunited again—is resigning. Good riddance.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) April 7, 2019
After all her lies and the cruel, poorly executed policies she's been willing to defend, have to wonder what could possibly drive @SecNielsen to finally resign. Maybe she wants to be able to go to a decent Mexican restaurant on 5 de Mayo without getting booed out. ????????♀️
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) April 7, 2019
So tragic to see Kirstjen Nielsen ripped apart from her job.
— Rex Huppke (@RexHuppke) April 7, 2019
I text brother, "Nielsen gone." He replies, "Deported?"
— Guy Gavriel Kay (@guygavrielkay) April 7, 2019
Nielsen did not offer a statement about her decision to resign from her post at DHS, but reports indicated that she had clashed with Trump over the administration’s immigration policy. Trump in recent days has called for a more hardline approach and floated the idea of closing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Nielsen's next stop will be carefully watched. If any major companies hire her, pay her to speak, etc., expect to see major outcry from immigration and civil rights groups and beyond: https://t.co/pMruP22UyW
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) April 7, 2019
Many critics said they will not forget how Kirstjen Nielsen backed the “zero tolerance” policy, and have already floated plans to protest any company that might hire her after leaving the Trump administration.