By Maribel Hastings and David Torres
While the resignation of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kirstjen Nielsen, executor of the nefarious immigration policies of the Trump administration, is welcomed among diverse pro-immigrant sectors, the reality is that it does not matter who heads up DHS, since the root of the problem is a president stuck on demonizing immigrants and refugees and using them as pawns in his game of political chess, in the runup to the 2020 general elections.
And this time his plan is, evidently, even broader in terms of its cruelty, which is why he needs someone who will execute it in proportion to his own level of intensity, so that his base —like during the Rome empire— can applaud and cheer when he tries to crush the demographic tidal wave that is actually unstoppable.
Even with all of Nielsen’s cynicism and servility around the “zero tolerance” policy and the separation of families, for Trump her cruelty was not enough. It is still fresh in the memory how the now ex-Secretary of DHS never hesitated to sign memorandums and implement some of the cruelest immigration policies of this administration.
The fact is, whoever Trump names to replace Nielsen, things will stay the same or get even worse. As the saying goes: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
At this time, Trump designated Kevin McAleenan, director of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as acting DHS director.
In fact, ever since Nielsen took the place of John Kelly to direct DHS, she became one of Trump’s favorite punching bags on all things immigration. It was as if the president wanted to penetrate the thought of someone who, unlike him, had a special preparation to implement actions as a public official, and not as a mafia hitman. It was pathetic to see this in the public arena.
And yet, with everything going on and her departure from DHS, the “legacy” of the Nielsen who let herself be seduced by the trappings of power, who believed that the “honor” to serve a government like the one currently installed in the White House would catapult her to greener pastures, will be erased from the political and geographic map. This is a grievous mistake for which all those who have accepted to “work” with Trump have fallen.
Although in the beginning of this administration, in 2017, we saw an enormous reduction in the number of border apprehensions, this changed not only because of the arrival of thousands of families fleeing violence in Central America, but also because of the very policies of this administration, such as changing the rules for asylum so that migrants cannot solicit this remedy at ports of entry, as the law states, or returning them to Mexico to wait for their cases to be heard, which has caused a literal traffic jam of migrants at the border.
And although Nielsen has implemented and defended Trump’s policies, he has blamed her when things have not gone to his liking. And right there is another one of the symptoms of the anomaly of this administration: Trump has confused the concept of governing the country with the false idea that everything must be done to his liking.
Nielsen extended and implemented the policy of “zero tolerance” that separated families at the border and resulted in the caging of children and adolescents in detention centers, all with the objective of “deterring” other migrants. She also headed up sending the National Guard and military to the border. She likewise defended Trump’s useless wall, as well as directed the administration’s forces to prohibit migrants who crossed the border without documents from soliciting asylum at the ports of entry. When this proposal was stopped in the courts, she limited the number of migrants who can go ahead and request asylum at those ports of entry.
The list is very long.
Nielsen’s aggressiveness did not placate Trump, a president who wants to go even further. But how far does he want to tighten the screws of imprudence?
Last week, for example, Trump pulled the nomination of Ron Vitiello to head up ICE, saying “we want to go in a tougher direction.”
Of course: a “tougher” direction, viable or not, just to feed the prejudice of his base and mobilize them to the polls, even if the country, and his cabinet, fall into pieces in this attempt to perpetuate intolerance.