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Trump Purges DHS Leadership, Threatening to Make Immigration Policies Even More Draconian

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President Trump is intensifying a crackdown on immigration as he purges the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. On Sunday, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced out after reportedly resisting a move by Trump to revive his family separation policy at the U.S. southern border. Nielsen had overseen Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy last year and came under fire by Democrats for lying to Congress about the policy, as well as for withholding information on children who died in U.S. custody. On Monday, the White House announced Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles had also been removed from his position. Meanwhile, Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Ronald Vitiello to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, indicating he wasn’t “tough” enough for the role. Trump has named Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan acting DHS secretary. McAleenan reportedly was open to reinstating a form of family separation in which families would have to choose between being separated or being taken into long-term detention with their children. We speak with Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, President Trump is intensifying his crackdown on immigration as he purges the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. On Sunday, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced out after reportedly resisting a move by Trump to revive his family separation policy at the U.S. southern border. Nielsen had overseen Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy last year and came under fire by Democrats for lying to Congress about that policy, as well as for withholding information on children who died in U.S. custody. On Monday, the White House announced Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles had also been removed from his position. Several other high-ranking DHS officials are also reportedly on the verge of being purged. Meanwhile, on Friday, Trump withdrew nominee Ronald Vitiello to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, indicating he wasn’t, quote, “tough” enough for the role.

AMY GOODMAN: This all comes in the wake of Trump reportedly putting adviser Stephen Miller, a longtime hard-liner on immigration, in charge of the administration’s immigration policy. The Wall Street Journal reports Miller has backed the reinstatement of Trump’s family separation policy and has been pushing officials at the Homeland Security and Justice Departments to “get in line” with a more hard-line immigration approach.

Trump has named Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan acting DHS secretary. McAleenan reportedly was open to reinstating a form of family separation in which families would have to choose between being separated or being taken into long-term detention with their children.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting Trump told border agents not to allow migrants entry at the border and to tell judges “we don’t have room.” On Saturday, Trump repeated the claim during an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’ll do whatever is necessary to stop an invasion of our country. That’s what it is. At the heart of the crisis are the 9th Circuit rulings in the Flores case and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, driving a staggering surge of illegal families and minors into the hands of our incredible Border Patrol people. They’ve done an incredible job. What they do is incredible. I was with them yesterday.

So, Congress must end catch and release so that illegal border crossers can be quickly and safely returned to their home. Get out! Sorry. Get out! Sorry. Can’t handle it. And I told my people yesterday, “Our country’s full.” We’re full. Our system’s full. Our country’s full. Can’t come in. Our country is full. What can you do? We can’t handle any more. Our country is full. Can’t come in. I’m sorry. It’s very simple.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. She’s joining us from Phoenix, Arizona, a border state.

Erika, if you can respond to this purging at Homeland Security and what’s happening on the border?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me this morning.

And it is really, really disturbing, what is going on. We are very worried. We basically had the secretary of homeland security, who was a person literally deciding to tear families apart, you know, take the children away from their parents, so that they can make a political—you know, or just basically send a political message out to the American people. This is the same person who was just fired because she wasn’t tough enough.

This is definitely—it’s worrying us a lot, because what we have seen already is that we already have children who are still actually being separated from their parents right now. We have a lot more people who are being detained with their kids and in family detention centers. And it seems like what Trump is referring to right now in the speech that he just did is that he wants to double down on that—more families being detained and more people being taken away from their children—by using, you know, these sort of scare tactics, for the American public to think that, you know, migrants are bad people, that they shouldn’t be here, when that is just not the reality.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Erika, in terms of seeing Kirstjen Nielsen now, as you’re saying, portrayed as a moderate, when she was really the leader of the family separation policy, and the idea that she was not tough enough, what kind of signal does that send to immigrant rights groups across the country of what to expect in the next few months?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: It’s definitely not going to get any easier. We are under an administration that’s being led by someone who’s campaigning already for 2020. And what we have already seen, it’s not just rhetoric. I mean, it’s not just Trump basically referring to migrants, you know, with—I mean, you guys have already heard what he has been saying about the undocumented community and the migrant community. So, it’s not just his rhetoric; it’s also his policies. And right now we have seen one of his policies, the “return to Mexico” or the “remain in Mexico” policy, who—you know, he implemented the family separation policy. I mean, all these actions that he has taken has actually hurt a lot of people.

We at RAICES have been working with clients who are going through this. We just, literally, not too long ago, had a baby, a 1-year-old baby, in family detention being sick for over 20 days. He wasn’t being taking care of at all. And, I mean, this is sort of stories that continue to occur. And, unfortunately, he’s not really telling the truth, that these folks are human beings who are seeking asylum in this country. And it’s really not going to get any easier for us. So, you know, we’ve got to continue to fight back. We’ve got to continue to provide services and really helping these folks as they’re detained, as they’re coming in and asking for help, and really continue to use all the tools that we have, including fighting back these policies through court, which is what we’ve been doing for a while now, as well.

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Next story from this daily show

Kirstjen Nielsen’s Cruel Legacy: Outgoing DHS Secretary Proudly Separated Families & Caged Children

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