Kirstjen Nielsen, seen here swearing in at a hearing for her nomination to be Department of Homeland Security Secretary on November 8, was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday to lead the department. Nielsen later followed Kelly to the White House to become his deputy chief of staff.
As Secretary of DHS, Nielsen will be in charge of 240,000 employees in 22 sub-agencies with broad jurisdiction and a range of responsibilities, including immigration enforcement, border patrol, aviation security, disaster preparedness, domestic counter-terrorism, the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard.
Nielsen will be the first DHS secretary with experience working in the agency, which Trump said will assist her as she assumes leadership. She has served as principal deputy White House chief of staff, reporting to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, since September 6. She is considered a cyber security expert and previously served in the administration of Republican President George W. Bush.
Nielsen said at her confirmation hearing last month that climate change is a crucial issue and said the Trump administration is revising its climate models to better respond to rising sea levels.
"Ms. Nielsen has been engaged in counterterrorism, all-hazard risk mitigation, critical infrastructure protection, and response policy from the earliest days of what we now know as homeland security", the former officials wrote in a letter to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Trump did not make his selection for Kelly's replacement until October, when he announced Nielsen as his choice to lead the Department.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Nielsen has played a role in several questionable Trump administration decisions, including a travel ban to restrict entry from six mostly Muslim countries, termination of a program for young immigrants and what Harris called a "feeble response to Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey".
Bannon was ousted from the White House in August amid scrutiny from Kelly.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a onetime prospect for the DHS top job, said, "I am confident that Kirstjen's mission-focused style of leadership will help her succeed in leading the men and women of DHS and ensuring we reform and improve the Department".
Elaine Duke had been serving as acting secretary since Kelly stepped down. However, Trump's recent statement indicates that instead of eliminating DACA, he merely wants to legitimize it by replacing Obama's executive orders with legislative authority. Ultimately, however, it is the president and Congress who must define what our national immigration policy must be.