Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen leaving Trump administration amid surge of migrants on U.S.-Mexico border
President Donald Trump announced Sunday that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was leaving the administration, marking the exit of a second top immigration official in a matter of days as the White House continues to grapple with an influx of migrants on the southern border.
Replacing her on an acting basis will be Kevin McAleenan, who currently serves as the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Trump said Sunday. The announcement on Twitter came shortly after Trump and Nielsen met at the White House, according to two senior administration officials.
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening. “I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”
The meeting between Trump and Nielsen was not disclosed on the president’s public schedule that was distributed by the White House, and it came three days after the White House abruptly yanked the nomination of Ronald Vitiello, who had been picked as Trump’s director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The president later signaled that he wants the nation to go “in a tougher direction” on immigration enforcement.
It was not immediately clear whether Nielsen resigned or if Trump fired her. One senior administration official said Nielsen “did not go with the White House with the intention of resigning.”
In the past week, Trump has grappled with a response to the surge of migrants at the border, most notably by threatening to close off the U.S.-Mexico border but backing off within days after pleas from business leaders and Republican lawmakers who warned that a border closure could be devastating to the economy.
Trump toured the border in Calexico, Calif., on Friday and spoke at a roundtable with border and immigration officials to make a case to the public and to Congress for tougher enforcement policies. Nielsen joined him on that trip and appeared at the roundtable.
The number of apprehensions at the southern border soared in March, to nearly 100,000 arrests compared to 58,000 in January, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Much of the surge is attributable to Central American families who are seeking asylum in the United States.
Read related Tribune coverage
- Trump backs off threat to close southern border immediately, says he’ll give Mexico one-year warning on drugs, migrants
Authors: JOSH DAWSEY, NICK MIROFF AND SEUNG MIN KIM, THE WASHINGTON POST
I cross the international border between Cd. Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas about 4 times a week. I am amongst the thousands of transnational fronterizxs that live their life crossing the frontera as part of their weekly routine.
I cross over there easily to enjoy what I call the homeland. My veins bleed proud Mexican blood that was passed onto me by my parents.
When I cross back, I am questioned as to why I was in Juarez and my answer is always the same, because it’s my second home. I detest Border Patrol; the migra that instills fear into so many people.
Now, I’m often antagonized when I share my opinions about Border Patrol and ICE. People will argue that those people who work for these government sectors are simply people, like you and I, who are trying to make a living.
I think it’s important to note that I am in no way trying to dehumanize these men and women who work for CBP and ICE. But I also find that the attempt to separate these humans from the accountability of their actions is problematic.
At this very moment, there are men, women and children in cages like animals. They spent days outside, underneath a bridge exposed to whatever the climate was. It was reported that children had bruises on their bodies from sleeping on the floor on top of rocks.
Whether or not Border Patrol agents “signed up” to do this when they applied for the job, they did it and they continue to get paid to do it. This makes every single man and woman who works for Border Patrol guilty of accepting paychecks for executing the inhumane treatment of migrant men, women and children.
I’ve had this conversation with both those who agree with me and those who disagree, and it seems like the argument I’ve come across the most is that these people who work for this government or this current administration need to feed their own families and thus have no choice.
If we can make this argument for these modern oppressive structures, can we not make them for say, Nazi soldiers and SS officers?
It can be argued that it is unlikely that EVERY SINGLE NAZI shared Adolf Hitlers’ dream of a “pure Germany,” but does that erase the damage that was done by every single Nazi that helped exterminate 6 million Jews?
How do we separate the inherently racist jobs that people do from the person who does them?
The answer is simple. We don’t.
If the humanity of others can be erased by a paycheck, then you are part of a broken system and you should and will be held accountable for the evil actions that you enact.
Border Patrol and ICE are organizations that’s entire existence is dependent on racist and xenophobic policies.
These conversations are uncomfortable for many people because we don’t want to think of our Tio in CBP or father in ICE as racist or xenophobic. And maybe they’re not blatantly so.
But when they put on a badge and drag children into cages, they are fueling a system that sees citizenship as a dealbreaker for treating someone as a human being that deserves respect and THAT is xenophobic. When an organization specifically targets folx with brown skin while simultaneously ignoring migrants from other countries (that are white), that IS racist.
There will be accountability.
Revolution is coming and it will remember the monsters who “did their job” and ignored morality.
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On Tuesday morning, officials with Action El Paso – a coalition of concerned business and community leaders – launched a campaign to push back against U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) plan to open a processing center in El Paso.
In February, information was released about CBP’s plans for a processing center, when the General Services Administration (GSA) posted a bid request looking for a 250,000-square-foot facility to lease in western El Paso as early as April 15.
Despite CBP’s quick timeline of taking occupancy in June 2019 to open a processing center in El Paso, the community and business members have not been consulted by CBP or GSA about the facilities they are considering.
Officials with Action El Paso describe the facility as “warehouse-style.”
“We have all seen photos and videos of the conditions that children and families are subjected to within these warehouse style facilities,” said Jon Barela, Chief Executive Officer of The Borderplex Alliance, a member of Action El Paso. “The idea of having a facility that forces children to sleep on the floor or neglects families the basic things like access to separate bathrooms, showers or health services goes against the values that define El Paso and residents of the Borderplex region. If a processing center is to open in our community, it must be well-equipped and prioritize the humanity of migrants, and that requires careful planning and time.”
As part of the campaign, Action El Paso launched a petition demanding that before any facility is opened in El Paso, City leadership and the community must be consulted on the location of the processing center and specifically designed to ensure the humane treatment of migrants and the efficient processing of their asylum requests.
“At a time when our region is experiencing tremendous growth and economic development, we cannot allow for this new processing center to disrupt the momentum and positive economic energy in El Paso,” said David Jerome, President & CEO of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, a member of Action El Paso. “The proposed processing center should NOT be placed near our schools, businesses, and residential neighborhoods. El Paso city and federal representatives, along with the larger El Paso community, should be consulted to fully weigh the costs and negative impacts that it might create to our economic and civic well-being.”
Barela added, “The RFP is flawed and is unnecessarily limited in geographic scope. Locations throughout El Paso County and Southern New Mexico should be explored. I urge the GSA and CBP to reissue the RFP so that a more permanent and humane solution can be found, thus ensuring a competitive bidding process and prudent usage of taxpayer money.”
Action El Paso members want to ensure that the new migrant processing center in El Paso serves as the prototype for how to efficiently process asylum seekers and migrants, and offers a real long-term solution for the influx of migrants arriving at our borders. Action El Paso is requesting a meeting with CBP and GSA to make their demands clear.
To learn more about this campaign and the petition that the campaign is circulating click here.
The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens will host an exhibit showcasing art created by teenagers from various Central and South American countries who were held in a secured tent city in Tornillo, a small town of about 1,600 people about 40 miles southeast of El Paso.
“Uncaged Art: Tornillo Children’s Detention Camp,” is a multi-sensory exhibit based on art that the teenagers created during their confinement.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detained more than 6,000 teenagers from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central and South American countries from June 2018 through January 2019 in the temporary detention center on the eastern fringe of El Paso County.
Among the witnesses who stood vigil outside the camp was Yolanda Chávez Leyva, Ph.D., associate professor of history and director of UTEP’s Institute of Oral History. She would go on her days off out of concern for the welfare of those unaccompanied minors in the camp.
Leyva said a camp source told her that social studies teachers assigned to the shelter gave a four-day art project that the children could do individually or in groups. The only instructions given to the detainees was to think of their home communities. She said the teenagers created hundreds of drawings, sketches, paintings, dresses and sculptures that involved birds, parks, churches and a soccer field.
Camp officials judged the art and decided which pieces to display around the camp.
When the government decided to close the site in January 2019, workers began to discard the artwork. A Catholic priest from El Paso who served the children asked the caretakers for a chance to find someone who might want the art. He called Leyva, a co-founder of El Paso’s Museo Urbano, a community museum near Downtown El Paso that researches and preserves borderland history.
Leyva said the priest hoped that the museum and UTEP might be able to protect the art. After consultation with Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Leyva agreed to store the artwork at UTEP.
“With our mission of access and excellence … and our mission to engage with our community on both sides of the border, we have created a sense of trust where people in the community feel that they can entrust us with their most valued objects,” he said. “This is something that other universities in the U.S. rarely have. It makes UTEP special and we cannot ever lose this.”
The exhibit sponsors are UTEP, the Centennial Museum, the Hope Border Institute, Museo Urbano, the renowned muralists Los Dos, and UTEP’s departments of Theatre & Dance and Facilities Management.
The show opens April 13, 2019, with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibit closes October 5, 2019.
“The beggar stretches out his hand not to ask, but to give you the kingdom of heaven, and you do not notice.” Elder Arsenie Papacioc
Over the last couple of weeks, El Paso has seen an influx of migrants fleeing to our border in order to seek safety, prosperity and a hope at the American dream.
During this same time frame, we’ve also seen the best, and worst, the Sun City has to offer.
I have witnessed – and been part of – a large group of people who banded together, from all walks of life, seeking to help these people, these families that are now in the United States. We’ve provided shelter, food, clothing and a way for them to connect with family within the US.
It’s an amazing thing to see firsthand how grateful they are for what is being done for them. Personally, I wish I could do more for them, we all do.
Then, on the other side of this coin, is a small group of very vocal individuals who seek nothing more than to exploit and possibly profit from these same individuals who are just seeking the same chances we’ve all had.
These same individuals are calling these migrants an invading force, illegal aliens, and worse. There are even a few who follow them around, harass them, and Facebook live their misleading rhetoric. It’s very sad.
I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the fence, those who are seeking to help these individuals and those who seek to bar them entry. The former gives me hope that America has not yet lost its core values. The latter, they leave much to be desired.
“We aren’t wanting them here,” says Chuck Lamb. “All they are doing is coming to take our jobs and start robbing our homes.”
The man with Mr. Lamb, who didn’t want to be identified, offered his opinion.
“Our President is right,” he said. “We must follow him. He was put there by God. He for sure knows who these people really are. President Trump knows!”
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God,” said Mr. Lamb.
I did mention to Mr. Lamb and his friend that that verse would also include all leaders, not just the President of the United States.
After yelling at me, they walked away.
Yet, speaking with others, talking about why they do what they do, many of them did quote scriptures. Ester, not her real name, told me of the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary Magdalene.
“When Mary Magdalene was anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive spikenard, Judas protested,” said Ester. “Jesus explained to Judas that we will always have the poor with us. For many years, I didn’t understand that. Then, it came to me that it’s a promise that He will always allow us the opportunity to be Christian. It’s not just a statement of fact. Look around you; there’s need everywhere. I promise you; you will always have the opportunity to honor Him.”
“It’s also paying it forward because I’ve been helped,” she added. “Christ promised us that we would always have the opportunity to help. Because if you don’t, you cannot be a Christian.”
It’s true, to be a Christian you must help, you must assist. By not doing so, or being selective in who you help, you are closing the doors to heaven.
It’s not solely a Christian effort to help, to assist. No. I did become involved in this because of Father Joseph Hector Abouid of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church here in El Paso.
We’ve also become involved in a larger group of individuals who are helping under the coordination of Freddy Klayel Avalos. Why is Freddy helping?
“I’m helping because my dad is a Palestinian refugee and I understand the prosperity and advancement that he achieved in live are in a large part to the aid he received from people that were willing to help him and his family out,” says Avalos of Shine On El Paso.
“It’s important that people help,” says Freddy, “because in the age of social media it’s easy to read about the effort and the mission and see pictures, but it still takes manpower, womanpower to get things done, to donate, to carry, feed, cook and more. No technology or media outlet is going to do this for them; it takes a village.”
That village includes local business owners. “I’m helping because I can,” said one business owner. “This time of year, you see these kids. I wanted to give.”
When you see a child, who was just given a jacket become so animated, so excited, it makes your heart swell, and your spirit soar. For someone to be so happy about receiving the gift of a jacket, to see how their eyes shine, to see that smile, it is life changing. It is truly life changing.
“These people have nothing, we have so much,” said the business owner. “I was able to feed these people today with the amount of money we spent yesterday eating out as a family. So, for five people I was able to feed a hundred.”
Another person from the local business community, Ronnie Lowenfield and the team at Casa Ford Lincoln have helped as well. Why?
“I see people trying to improve the quality of their life, and if I can provide a hope spark to that end simply by giving a warm blanket, smile, and hug, I don’t know why I wouldn’t help,” said Mr. Lowenfield. “If dozens of people hadn’t sacrificed their “rights” or “agendas” for me throughout my life, I’d be nothing, and so I guess this could just be that humility and compassion living itself through me today.”
I also spoke with one volunteer who is working directly with the refugees. “These people need help, and I have no excuse not to be here, you know,” he said. “We are all immigrants, everyone here speaks Spanish, has family in Mexico or someplace else.”
Yet, there’s more to why we should help.
“I believe it is our duty, and great honor, as humans to care for all human life regardless of race or nationality, especially the outcast and marginalized,” says Lowenfield. “I also think that every time a person serves another and lays down their life even for a minute for them, the world is a better place for everybody.”
That is a point I cannot emphasize enough. Very few of people and the number grows smaller each day, can be counted among the First Nations. Most everyone you see, most everyone you encounter, their family had to come here from somewhere else:
Mexico, South America, Germany, Cuba, Ireland, Russia, and the list goes on and on.
Yet, we seem to be forgetting that in a misguided push for Nationalism (I have a problem with anyone who says they are a Nationalist. That word has very negative connotations to it).
We all came from somewhere, and we should all help. Period.
“In my times of need,” said the volunteer, “there have been other people to help me, strangers that helped me out. It’s my opportunity to give back, and the community has been giving back as well.”
This volunteer told me he couldn’t count the number of people he helped process, but he had yet to meet a murder, a rapist, a drug dealer in the groups he’s seen.
“These are families,” he says. “They are escaping poverty, escaping the hardships of their country, and they come here seeking a better life like everybody else did.”
Then I met María, near the Greyhound bus depot in Downtown El Paso. Maria was born in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico in 1942. When I met her, she was watching, crying and saying a rosary.
“I want more to be giving,” she said. “I give my coat, and for one some camisas (shirts) Now, I have for them this rosary I pray and hopeful heart and wishes.”
So many people giving what they can. So many people wishing they could do more. Still, so much left to be done.
As the one volunteer said, he has yet to meet someone who is a criminal. That is a point a lot of people are missing, like our own local agitator, InfoWars and even the President of the United States.
As these individuals, as these families present themselves to Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection Agents, or others working along our nation’s borders, they are not simply granted wholesale entry.
No, there is a process that they must go through. When they come and request asylum one of the things the must undergo is a
background check. Have bad actors presented themselves at the border and attempted to gain entry under the guise of asylum seeker?
Yes, it’s happened. What you don’t hear is that those individuals have been taken into custody and removal proceedings have begun.
CBP and Border Patrol are very good at doing their jobs. They follow established protocol and admit those who qualify. They are not simply bussing in groups of illegal aliens and leaving them at Greyhound. Nor is this some elaborate and staged event as some have claimed.
These people are individuals who need our help, who need our compassion. What they don’t need is to be hounded, castigated or maligned. They are, just like you, human beings with hopes and dreams.
“I’m very proud of my community,” says Avalos. “Private citizens are stepping up to face a federal crisis, and people from all over the country are also pitching in and helping with what they can.”
“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to show the rest of the world what El Paso does better than any other community I’ve ever seen,” adds Lowenfield. “Care and personally sacrifice for others as if they were their mother or father, sister or brother, daughter or son, expecting nothing in return. This is a key ingredient that I think makes El Paso the greatest community in the world to live my life
and raise my family.”
As President Ronald Reagan once said:
“Through this Golden Door, under the gaze of that Mother of Exiles, has come millions of men and women, who first stepped foot on American soil right there, on Ellis Island, so close to the Statue of Liberty.
These families came here to work. They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other lands, under different, and often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they came or how much they suffered.
They helped to build that magnificent city across the river. They spread across the land building other cities and towns and incredibly productive farms.
They came to make America work. They didn’t ask what this country could do for them but what they could do to make this, this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history.
They brought with them courage, ambition and the values of family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom. We all came from different lands, but we shared the same values, the same dream.”
If you would like to help, you can a charitable contribution to Annunciation House; They have a secure way to give on their website.
If you have physical, nonperishable items, you can take them 5801 Silver Springs Drive, to the office of Shine On El Paso.
You can also message them, via Facebook, and they can make arrangements with you.
Let’s show the world that El Paso – that America – can rise up to any challenge, and help those in need.