Is It Miller Time? Nielsen Gets Nudged Out
Support for NPR and the following message. Come from gusto providing payroll benefits and HR services for small businesses. Gusto serves more than sixty thousand businesses nationwide with full service payroll HR, tools and health insurance at gusto dot com slash NPR. This is one A. I'm Todd's Willeke in Washington sitting in for Joshua Johnson. Today, the department of homeland security is massive two hundred and forty thousand people work there. And it spends more than forty billion dollars a year only the defense department and the department of veterans affairs cast bigger shadows in the federal government, and as we speak. There's turmoil at the top I'm forever grateful and proud of the minute women of Diaz who worked so hard every day to execute their missions to protect the homeland. I really look forward to continuing to support them from the outside. I share the president school is securing the border. I will continue to support all efforts to address the humanitarian and security crisis on the border in other than that. I'm on my way to keep doing what I can for the next two days. So thank you all for being here. Homeland security secretary Cureton Nielsen speaking outside of her home because after sixteen months in charge today is her last day in office. At the head of the President Trump remove Nielsen over the weekend. It was a tumultuous term for her. Nielsen reportedly clashed with the president over his demands for politically untenable or even illegal actions at the border, and she clashed with Democrats over the Trump administration's child separation policy, which she implemented, and then untruthfully said did not exist. The president has other changes at homeland security, so many that people are now calling this a purge Randolph d Alice the director of the US secret service is out the president. We recently withdrew the nomination of Ronald video to head the immigration and customs enforcement agency saying he wanted to go in a tougher direction. And now prominent Republicans on the hill are warning the president not to go ahead with other planned dismissals, including the head of the US citizenship and immigration services. L Francis system, what comes next could radically change how this department works. So let's welcome Elena train White House reporter for axios. Daniel griswold. He senior research fellow and co-director for trade and immigration at the Mercatus center at George Mason University. Thank you both for being here with me. I appreciate it. And glad to be here tapping me Elena Kirstin Nielsen says that she resigned after deciding it was time for her to go is that what really happened according to our reporting. No so on Sunday afternoon, sh the secretary had a meeting with President Trump in the White House residence and she did bring her resignation letter. But thought that she wasn't really fully prepared. I think to resign. I think what happened was the meeting didn't really go. Well, and the president essentially or no, I'm sorry. She had written the resignation letter after this meeting, essentially, the meeting didn't really go that. Well, wasn't there a bunch of reporting in past weeks at their relationship had turned a corner, and that she was finally getting along with this tumultuous president on his most important issue for the base and that and that she? Is going to be able to continue because he was now. Happy with her. Yes, there there were reports that she was actually doing better, she was more. So they always had a strained relationship. The president always thought that she was a bit weak on immigration, especially given that after the. Tumultuous relationship the president had with chief of staff John Kelly. Of course, Chris Nielsen was one of John Kelly proteges, really. So when John Kelly had initially left, there was talk that perhaps she'd be leaving to and there is talk of replacing her, but then these past few weeks, it did seem like she was on a better better standing with the president. And I think that what went wrong. Well, I think the president is just fed up with what's going on the border. He does see it as a crisis. He sees as a national security issue. And he thought someone like Chris Nielsen wasn't doing enough to get done what he wants. And really that is a lot more through executive action and orders that can be done just through the White House. And a lot of things that he was asking her to do actually seen as illegal. And so there's a lot of butting heads between the secretary and the president. I think that all came to against frustrated that she would not implement orders that even cruise to Nielsen a loyalist. I think it's fair to say would not implement. Because they're legal. There are reports that he's told border officers. If a judge tells you you can't send an asylum seeker back over the border, which is illegal ignore the judge, exactly. And there's a reports of that reports of closing the Al Paso Border of limiting a silent were really, you know, turning asylum seekers away things along those lines that she had actually gone and sought the aid of the White House counsel, Pat baloney on to say, we can't do this and trying to put pressure on the president. And eventually he backed down. But I think things like that to him in his mind showed her as being weak quote unquote week on the border, Dan. Well, let's talk about the agency here. What's your reaction to having an organization this size of DHS without a permanent leader? Now. In addition to all the other top posts that I mentioned at the top of the show. A lot of people are using that word purge to describe all the heads that are rolling at the top not only of d h s but all these sub agencies is well, what does that mean for the organization? Well, it's not good to have this kind of personnel turmoil. At such an important agency. I think the president is trying to signal that the problem is he just doesn't have the right people in office. When I think the problem is the policies that the administration's either followed or refuse to follow. You know, just put it in context when the president came in the flow of illegal immigration across the border was relatively low. It was at some of the lowest levels we've seen in decades the population of illegal immigrants in the United States has actually fallen in the last ten years from about twelve million to ten point seven million. So in some ways, the border was under the most control we've seen in years. What's happened? Recently is a it is an emergency involving one particular program the asylum program, and I think what needs to be done is to clarify the language of the program. It's meant to offer asylum to people fleeing systematic persecution. For race for political views for religion. It's the signal's gone out that basically anybody who gets here and crosses the border, especially with children can apply for asylum, and that wasn't the intention of the program. So that particular program, we need to clarify the definition, we need more judges, we need more detention beds. But this kind of all five alarm emergency that the president's trying to stir up just isn't appropriate for the problem. They're facing. Well, the federal courts are getting involved in clarifying that program hetero. Judge in San Francisco just yesterday ruled that the policy of forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico that program from the Trump administration has to be halted the courts will work that out. It's certainly not the final word. But Jim what does it mean? Now that the president wants to side has sidelined Kirstin. Nelson has sidelined others because he apparently wants people more hard line. He's asked in them in some cases to do questionable or even a legal things. That's clear. Is he just trying to get to a point where no one can stand in his way, he'll have nothing but hardcore loyalists that may be the case. And that would be unfortunate. I mean, what we need are different policies. One. We need to tighten the the asylum policy. But, but ultimately, we need to open up channels for more legal immigration. We need to expand temporary programs for low skilled workers, we need more H one B workers. I mean, the irony is while the president's talking tough his administration just a authorized an additional thirty thousand H two B visas and those are for low skilled seasonal workers in non-agricultural program. That was a good thing, by the way, and every time in the United States that we've expanded low skilled immigration legally illegal immigration has dropped at the border. And that's the alternate issue to reform the US immigration system. Well, let's talk about the person that many people see as the power behind the purge. We got this. Tweet from triangle man, the driving force behind the shakeup at D H S is the self-avowed white nationalist, Stephen Miller, please don't leave his statements out of this conversation. I'm not sure if he's a self avowed, white, nationalist. But Stephen Miller has been speaking out. Let's not leave him out of this conversation. This is about sovereignty. It's about working men and women it's about safe communities. It's about wages living conditions quality of life. This is the battle right now. Right before very is. We are going to win because Donald Trump is not backing down Olena, so many people point to Stephen Miller, the president's closest adviser on immigration issues is he a boogeyman how important is he to the president's thinking, and I guess more important than the president's thinking the president's actions right of an important thing to know is that I think a lot of people are looking at Stephen Miller as as if he's coming out of the woodwork. All of a sudden, he's not he's been he's had the president's ear for years now. And he was a big part of the two thousand sixteen campaign, and he is one of the president's most trusted advisers, and he is. Is an immigration hard liner. He is, you know, virtually probably much tougher than the president himself on immigration, and yes, he has been involved in a lot of these conversations. But I think it is important to note that he's had these feelings for some time now, and it's not just all of a sudden, I think that the the big change here is really that. A lot of the other opposing voices aren't in the White House. Stephen Miller worked in the Senate for Jeff Sessions for years at a time when comprehensive immigration reform was getting sixty-seven votes in the Senate, and Jeff Sessions was viewed as a as a right wing fringe character. Now, Stephen Miller is at the very center of power right in the White House, and that's an important framing. I think it definitely is. And I think that. Just as we said a lot of those opposing voices aren't there anymore loud. The generals who were kind of the people who are trying to get the president to back down on some of his most his strongest and somewhat radical ideas, whether it was on immigration or other issues aren't there anymore. And so some would say Kristen near sin was also one of those opposing voices, and Stephen Miller is definitely very strong on this. And he's also aligned with I think another person in play is ambassador John Bolton, the national security adviser them together. I think are really persuading the president on a lot of this will we've been hearing from you on the issue of immigration and DHS AC Monroe tweets, everyone knows that things aren't going to get better. Now that cures to Nielsen is out. In fact, it will most likely get worse. She was fired because she wasn't tough enough. And we've gotten a lot of Texan emails from people saying crisco back would be the right man for the job at D H S. We're talking with Elena train White House reporter for axios, and Dan griswald senior research, fellow and co-director for trade in the immigration project at the Mercader. The center at George Mason University. We'll pick up the conversation about homeland security and how it's run and perhaps get some reaction to this suggestion from across town. Homeland security was poorly put together after nine eleven and it should be broken up into three parts one the FEMA and the national coordination center for communications with deals with emergencies and flooding than border control, which is deals with people crossing into the United States coming to the United States and customs, which is a tax organization on this is one I. Support for NPR and the following message come from VS p individual vision plans offering coverage for a low monthly cost. If you don't have vision coverage through an employer, you'll get access to the nation's largest network of independent doctors and hundreds of name-brand frames. Plus you can save more than two hundred dollars a year. VS p believes you deserve to see better for life for less. Discover for yourself at need VS p coverage dot com. Hey, it's a fear. Is Berg host of MPR's asking me another and this month, we're celebrating women in comedy and this week from the Netflix series Russian doll. We're joined by co creator, Leslie Hedlund and actor grittily we challenge them to not one but two games about real nesting dolls and fashionable food trends, listen and subscribe now. This is one eight on Todd's willik, we're going to wrap up our conversation about the changes at the top of the homeland security department. I should share a few of the revealing texts that we've gotten from people who work at d h s here in Washington, here's one the morale is very low. The lack of stability is definitely affecting people. Another person wrote to say my husband works for DHS. He found the new surprising but inevitable. It's a tough job when you're belittled from above in demonized by the media and one more text we live within a few miles of the Texas Mexico border. Trump has lowered morale and his destroying the mental and emotional health of employees at H who already suffer from unsolved, ethical stress. Elena Trine is White House reporter for axios. Daniel Griswold is senior research fellow and co-director for trade immigration at the Mercatus center at George Mason University, Dan, you wanted to add a thought on Stephen Miller, the person that many people at the White House. See as the hardline it of Donald Trump on on immigration. You know, that that is a common thread in all we've been talking about the the ascendancy of Stephen Miller Orlenas, right? He's always been there. Just a reminder. It was Stephen Miller that was the primary force behind the travel ban that that mmediately when the administration took office that did not turn out. Well, he was behind the child separation policy, which did not turn out. Well, and also about a year ago, the Senate actually voted on an amendment that would have given the president twenty five billion the full funding for his wall in exchange for legalizing, the dreamers, and Stephen Miller nix that. So he has an important voice for policy, but I would say he has not led the president in the right direction. Dan, are you saying when you boil down the politics that none of this had to happen? Well, I don't think it had to happen. I mean, the president I think the president is somewhat conflicted on immigration. He's been saying things lately about we need more workers, particularly high skilled workers. They've just authorized more. Low-skilled temporary workers, Jared Kushner is an important voice in favor of more immigration legalization where legal immigration. So I think Stephen Miller really is having a visible effect on policy, and it's not serving the country. Well, it's not serving the president and President Trump's owned properties in Florida. It's now reported are busily going through their employment records and getting rid of the undocumented immigrants. I don't know how many who work at various properties golf clubs and resorts around Florida. So the Trump organization is busy doing that. As well. Also, use H two B workers they understand the importance of foreign workers for business like that. We're talking about what's next for the department of homeland security after cursed Nilsson leaves today on Todd's will look infra Joshua Johnson. We'll take a quick break. Moorhead today. Close. Support also comes from ADT, America's trusted home security provider, providing secure smart homes, custom designed with everything from video doorbells indoor and outdoor cameras smart locks and lights and professionally monitored carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. All controlled by the sound of your voice or on the go with the ADT go app. Learn more at ADT dot com. Hey, it's guy-roger here. And on the latest episode of how I built this how Alice waters pioneered the farm-to-table movement and revolutionized American cuisine along the way check it out on how I built this from NPR. Let's go back now to our conversation on Hobie in charge of immigration policy in this country as Kirstin Nielsen resigns from the top job at the department of homeland security responding with Alanya Trine White House reporter from axios and Daniel Griswold of the trade and immigration project at George Mason University Elena, what do we know about cures to Nelson's reputation at DHS, certainly a loyalist for President Trump. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of rank and file workers at D H S who are bureaucrats government workers have a job to do not terribly political not Trump loyalists or Obama loyalists. They just do a job. How did she do with that giant swath of the bureaucracy? While you gotta hand it to her in some ways, she did come in. A time. When I think she was the president had very high expectations of her in really wanted to to crack down on our immigration system. And I think that a lot of people have a lot of respect for her as they did for John Kelly who was of course, the first secretary of homeland security, and then she followed in his footsteps when he became chief of staff, and I think a lot of people the rank and file the career officials did have respect for her. But a lot of her policies or the policies that she implemented while there were very controversial. Again, the separate the child's operation probably being the biggest of them. And I think that's also going to stay with her now that she's exiting. I think a lot of people are saying look, she'll go get some cushy job. Don't feel too bad for her her policies were very controversial. And I think that's going to continue to stay with her for some time that herself that she was worried about her reputation, and maybe stayed on longer than she would have because she knew that life would be hard once she left the Trump administration and the reputation that she hit earned for herself. At HHS. Right. And it is it's interesting to see because I think while she was there. I don't think a lot of these policies she had envisioned implementing, but this is a lot of this came from the top from the president. And of course, these hard line voices. Like, Stephen Miller wanting to really crack down on this system. So it will be very interesting to see what she does next. We'll do I want to talk to you about this giant organization two hundred and forty thousand employees as I mentioned a big bureaucracy with a lot of different of a lot of different responsibilities. We heard from Donald from Arlington just a couple of moments ago. And I and I want to bring him back and have him repeat what he said because it really goes to how you manage not only this huge bureaucracy a bit at a time of of of tumultuous politics, where orders are coming from the top and and bubble up policy decisions are not being implemented the way they normally are. Here's Donald from Arlington. Donald from Arlington Virginia homeland security was poorly. Put tha. -gether after nine eleven and it should be broken up into three parts one to FEMA and the national coordination center for communications which deals with emergencies and flooding then border control, which is deals with people crossing into the United States coming to the United States and customs, which is a tax organization, so there'd be should be three entities that will better operate separately. Dan, Donald seems like he's intimately familiar with h s in what it's responsible for. He says break it up FEMA emergencies border, protection, and immigration and customs and excise essentially the taxing function. What do you think about terrorism and all the other responsible? I don't know the details. But I think he's put his finger on a truth after September eleventh. There was this drive in Washington to do something to centralize. And clearly we need to we needed to reform the bureaucracy after the. Ganic failure of of September eleventh and the old immigration and Naturalization Service probably needed some reorganization. And I think splitting that into an enforcement on one side. And basically the immigration services on the other was probably a good thing. But I think Donald's right IHS has become too big and too sprawling and maybe should be divided up in parts help it run more efficiently. I think so and we're just asking too much of one one agency it amazes me through all this. I accepted immigration is a is a huge issue in this country driven largely by the by the rhetoric and the political demands of the top. We don't talk about domestic terrorism. Let me say it this way. We don't talk about foreign perpetrators of terrorism in this country. It's a different world than it was ten years ago. Yeah. And just a few quick points. Immigrants are less likely than native born Americans to commit crimes, generally. Let's not forget that president. Unfortunately goes way too far in his rhetoric about that. Actually, the the current asylum seekers coming across are particularly not prone to crime, they tend to be women, and and and children and most of the terrorist acts it it's domestic and we have to keep our guard up against terrorism, that's key function of government. But largely we've successfully implemented policies that may that have made America safer, but the vast majority of immigrants legal and illegal don't pose a terrorist or criminal threat here in the United States to separate those issues. Let's make sure we keep an eye on policy as well. Free to posts to us nearly five hundred children are still separated from their migrant. Parents nearly two months after a federal judge ordered that the youngest be returned to their family members. It's at least five hundred by the way, she asks when will the chill one where the parents get their children back. There's a lot of smoke and a lot of fire a lot of firings and a lot of coverage. And a lot of rhetoric around this issue, free two point. Five hundred children at least still separated from their parents. At least and recent reports have shown that it could take up to another two years for Justice and interrelated agencies working on this issue to return some of these families back to or return some of these children back to their families into their parents. So despite that policy having been struck down by the courts, and the administration kind of taking you know, moving away from child separate or family separation. We're still seeing the effects of that. And I think it is interesting because the present has even said he's interested in perhaps implementing similar policy again, he thinks that it's a good deterrence, and that it would prevent future people trying to come to the United States through our southern border from coming. And so I think that you have to keep an eye on like the real world effects of these. It's not just policy. It's not just the politics that are being played in Washington. They do have real world affects if it were ineffective deterrent. I mean the curve on. On border crossings apprehensions. I should say went down to a twenty year low. It is now started to dip up again, it is dipped up since Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration and President Trump implemented the file the child separation policy. It has not been a deterrent. Now, that's chill. And it this is something I think the president is actually internally freaking out a bit. And our sources have said that you know, when the president came into office. He had always had this strong immigration these policies, and he wanted he had said throughout the campaign trail that he wanted to build a wall, but that hadn't stopped the numbers in the flow of immigrants coming to our country. And I think that's why he's really trying to pull together all of these hard line immigration voices. Like, Stephen Miller in the White House to really put a hammer down on this other people the president might pull close to him at this time Dan to head DHS, whether that's somebody who could get Senate confirmation or whether yet another acting official in charge of an organization, Chris. Oh back. His name came up before he's from Kansas. A his name seems to come up every time. There's a high profile opening on the immigration issue possible. Kovac might head DA gesture or who else it is possible in crisco back is a soulmate of Stephen Miller. He'd be a hardline may be more hardline than than the president. So an his Senate confirmation. I think it'd be very very doubtful. You know, fundamentally, it's not a personnel problem. It's a policy problem. It's the president trying to address a problem with the wrong instruments to build a wall from see to shining sea isn't going to solve the problem. Because a lot of the problems are coming through ports of entry like drugs and other things like that the aside lease they aren't trying to sneak into the country and stay here secretly they soon as I get in they present themselves to a border agent. So you could build miles of wall, and they'd just present themselves at ports of entry. So the it's the problem is the policies that the president is trying to implement not the people. He has around him. Chris Quebec is one name before we go lane and give me just two other names people who could be picked head DHS weather through Senate confirmation or as an acting. Yes. Chris back is co back is one of them a Cancun Cinelli with someone that when curse Nelson was rumored to perhaps be leaving before they had actually vetted him and thought that maybe he would fill that role. And then a lot of people are saying that the current person who's gonna come in after Kirsten Nelson. Kevin McLean might stay on as an acting director because there is still talk of hiring some sort of immigration czar that perhaps, you know, is someone more hardline like crisco backer. Cancun alley who they're worried about getting through Senate confirmation, but could still be involved in some of the the inner policies. There would be interesting to see if the Senate could confirm anybody for this position whether or not the president was inclined to try and not just have an acting person at his Beck and call at the head of a head of a cabinet agency. I'm very grateful. To you Elena Trine White House reporter for axios. Also, you Dan, griswald senior research fellow and co-director for trade and immigration at the Mercatus center at George Mason University. It's a story that we're gonna come back to soon. So thanks for being here. Thank Caveney cube. Thanks, also to congresswoman Sheila jackson-lee and to Daniel Kurtz, Laban of NPR. This conversation was produced by Junkin hill and edited by Miranda full more to learn more about them and the rest of the team you can visit one eight dot org slash staff. This program comes to you from W AMU part of American University until we meet again, I'm Todd's will like infra Joshua Johnson. Thank you so much for listening and for being with us. This is one A. Support for this podcast and the following message. Come from K bucks bound in support of the David Gilkey and Zaba Ulitsa tomato memorial fund established to strengthen NPR's commitment to training and protecting journalists in high risk environments.