US News: How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story - PressFrom - United Kingdom
  •   
  •   

US NewsHow America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story

17:40  18 july  2019
17:40  18 july  2019 Source:   msn.com

‘He did everything by the book’ – Outlook ‘not good’ for Cork man arrested by US immigration officials

‘He did everything by the book’ – Outlook ‘not good’ for Cork man arrested by US immigration officials Things are not looking good for the Cork man who was arrested by US immigration officials outside Philadelphia last week after more than a decade living in America, according to Senator Billy Lawless. 

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration did not tell key government agencies about its “ zero tolerance ” immigration policy before publicly announcing it in April, leaving the officials responsible for carrying it out unprepared to handle the resulting separations of thousands of children from their

‘ Zero - tolerance ’ policy. The Trump administration has justified the policy by pointing to an increase in southwest border apprehensions in 2018. Many of the families apprehended at the border come from Central America fleeing gang violence and poverty and seeking asylum in the United States.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Pedro Pardo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Migrants climbing the border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 25, 2018.

On the last day of March, Kirstjen Nielsen set off for what was supposed to be a weeklong trip to Europe with a packed itinerary. In London, she would meet with British officials on counterterrorism matters, then travel on to Stockholm to discuss election security with her Swedish counterparts and finally head to Paris, where she would represent the United States at a meeting of Group of 7 interior ministers. These are some of the far-flung obligations of the secretary of homeland security, who bears responsibility for not only thwarting terrorist attacks and preventing foreign interference in American elections but also cleaning up after hurricanes and ensuring that the United States doesn’t cede control of the Arctic to Russia and China.

'They're making example of him' - father accuses US authorities

'They're making example of him' - father accuses US authorities The family of a Corkman who is facing deportation from the US have said they believe authorities are trying to make an "example" of him. 

The “ zero tolerance ” policy is supposed to apply only to people who enter the country illegally. Immigration lawyers and advocates who work at the border say that family separations began in earnest after Mr. Trump took office pledging to crack down on illegal immigration , though a very

Most of the Central American parents detained here after “ zero tolerance ” fled gang and domestic The courtrooms are empty. That’s because, like a half dozen others nationwide, the court is inside a “Two of them were with me when we got separated by immigration , the other is in Honduras,” said

But the Department of Homeland Security’s mission had increasingly been telescoped into a single, all-encompassing concern. “Under Trump,” says Juliette Kayyem, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who served as an assistant secretary at the department under President Barack Obama, “it’s a department that looks at homeland security only through a lens of border enforcement.” A few days before Nielsen left for London, she learned that, in March, the number of undocumented immigrants Customs and Border Protection stopped as they were crossing the country’s Southwest border would top 100,000 — the first time the monthly statistic had hit six figures in 12 years. In response, President Trump threatened to halt all cross-border traffic, people and goods between the United States and Mexico — a move that would wreak havoc not only on the Mexican economy but on the American one as well.

'Filthy and hate-laced': Trump reignites attack on 'The Squad'

'Filthy and hate-laced': Trump reignites attack on 'The Squad' President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter in an early morning tirade, reigniting his attack on the four Democrat congresswomen known as "The Squad". In the tweets he said: "The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party. Horrible anti-Israel, anti-USA, pro-terrorist & public... "...shouting of the F...word, among many other terrible things, and the petrified Dems run for the hills.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions invokes the Bible to justify the heinous zero - tolerance immigration When Sessions invited the world to measure the government’s approach to immigration against the This is literally what happens in Exodus, which tells the story of a people expelled into the wilderness

McAleenan insisted that the White House's zero tolerance approach to immigration remained intact. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero The commissioner and Sessions insisted that the administration's policy remains in effect, even though immigrant parents are no longer being

Nielsen went ahead with the trip to Europe and spent her flight to London ordering “emergency surge operations” on the border. At least 750 Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to process cars and trucks at ports of entry were redeployed to the border to hunt for people who crossed the border illegally. But after 24 hours in Britain, following a series of calls with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Nielsen cut her European trip short. She rushed back to the United States to conduct a series of emergency border visits, if only to demonstrate to the president — her “audience of one,” as a Nielsen adviser described him — that she was working to fix the problem. Stockholm and Paris were scrapped in favor of El Paso; Yuma, Ariz.; and Calexico, Calif., where, on the first Friday in April, she met Trump at the Calexico Border Patrol Station.

'Four horsewomen of the apocalypse': Trump in new 'Squad' attack

'Four horsewomen of the apocalypse': Trump in new 'Squad' attack President Donald Trump has made yet another attack on "The Squad", quoting senator John Kennedy, calling them the "four horsewomen of the apocalypse". Using Twitter, he quoted the Louisiana senator who appeared on Fox News overnight, saying: "'In America, if you hate our Country, you are free to leave. The simple fact of the matter is, the four Congresswomen think that America is wicked in its origins, they think that America is even more wicked now, that we are all racist and evil. "They're entitled to their opinion, they're Americans. Now I'm entitled to my opinion, & I just think they're left wing cranks.

The Trump administration's “ zero tolerance ” immigration policy, which led to the separation of children from adults who crossed the border illegally, has fueled a U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors on the southwest border to adopt a “ zero tolerance ” policy against

This story was produced in partnership with This American Life. Now, thanks to zero tolerance , a growing number of them are. The policy was initiated by a memorandum on Before zero tolerance , most people caught crossing illegally were deported, or they could go to immigration court, which is

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © AP Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

In the squat, sand-colored building in the Sonoran Desert, Nielsen looked on as Trump held a press event with C.B.P. officers. He praised their work capturing migrants trying to cross the border and praised Mexico for its recent efforts to prevent migrants from reaching it. “I’m totally willing to close the border, but Mexico, over the last four days, has done more than they’ve ever done,” Trump said. “They’re apprehending people now by the thousands and bringing them back to their countries, bringing them back to where they came from.” During those four days, Nielsen had been in regular contact with Mexican officials, assuring them that Trump “was as serious as a heart attack about sealing the border,” a former administration official told me. When Mexico responded, the official says, “it felt like the president had been walked back from the brink.”

Then Trump charged toward a different precipice. Still speaking to the C.B.P. officers but now directing his comments to potential immigrants, he made a proclamation. “This is our new statement,” Trump said. “The system is full. Can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration. We can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full.” Trump went on: “So turn around. That’s the way it is.”

Cork man at centre of immigration controversy in US signs documents to pave way for deportation

Cork man at centre of immigration controversy in US signs documents to pave way for deportation A Cork man who is at the centre of an immigration controversy in the US has signed documents to pave the way for deportation. Keith Byrne (37) signed the documents this morning in the US, according to his father. Speaking to Independent.ie, Jim Byrne said that Keith would "take the advice of those around him". "We won’t know anything for two to three weeks. We’re keeping our hopes up and our fingers and toes crossed," said Jim Byrne. Keith Byrne, originally from Fermoy, signed the passport application after nine days of detention in Pike County Correctional Facility in north-east Pennsylvania.

Immigration "loophole" that Trump bemoaned returns after zero tolerance rollback. A head-spinning sequence of events appears to have put the Trump administration right where it started: running a "catch and release" immigration system in which families crossing the border illegally stay in the

" zero tolerance " policy on immigration that's sparked widespread debate after more than 2,000 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina because of her personal history with the U.S. immigration process. Immigrant Patricia Lozano, from Honduras, waits with her son Diego inside the bus station Saturday

This position had long been a bone of contention between Trump and Nielsen. A year earlier, during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, told Trump that to solve the immigration crisis, his homeland security secretary, Nielsen, simply needed to stop letting people into the country, according to two former administration officials. (Sessions could not be reached for comment.) Nielsen tried to explain that this wasn’t something she believed that she — or the United States, for that matter — could do. Under federal law and international treaties, people fleeing persecution in their home country may seek to live in safety in the United States. If someone arriving at the border requested asylum, she said, the United States could not legally turn that person away without processing the claim, and there was no legal mechanism by which the United States could hang a “no vacancy” sign at its borders.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Reuters Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (R) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a briefing on border security

But Trump brushed her argument aside, dressing her down for several minutes, in front of her cabinet colleagues, for being weak and naïve. The tongue-lashing was so intense that after the meeting, Nielsen discussed with Pence whether she should resign. (Pence told her she shouldn’t.)

Irish dad-of-three facing deportation from US over immigration dispute given a three-week reprieve

Irish dad-of-three facing deportation from US over immigration dispute given a three-week reprieve Keith Byrne, 37, has completed a passport application that could lead to him being expelled from the country . But the three-week period to process the documents might open up legal opportunities for him to stay in the US. Last night his dad Jim, from Fermoy, Co Cork, told the Irish Mirror: “The American dream has turned into an American nightmare. “He signed it so we’re just awaiting developments. “His lawyers are happy with it if you can call it an extension. They seem to be pleased enough with the three weeks.

A woman from El Salvador says she hasn’t spoken to her 8-year-old son in a month, since immigration officials separated them after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. (June 19) AP.

How Irish and Irish Americans can stand with their fellow immigrants in the US. “We cannot be numbed by these daily announcements on immigration . I encourage you to offer one act of On Saturday, June 30, get to your local event for “Families Belong Together” and send a clear message to Donald Others seem to have forgotten their ancestral stories of hardship on coming to America .

After the C.B.P. press event, Nielsen, sporting aviator sunglasses and a navy blue quilted vest, escorted Trump across a dusty field to inspect a new section of border wall. Briefly pulling him aside from the Kevlar-clad C.B.P. officers and gun-toting local law-enforcement officials who were accompanying them, Nielsen, according to two people familiar with the conversation, reviewed with the president the options available to him short of refusing to let people in. Trump wasn’t pleased. Kevin McAleenan, then the commissioner of C.B.P., one of the agencies under the D.H.S. umbrella, was also on the wall-inspecting trip. According to two people familiar with the encounter, Trump urged him to block asylum seekers from entering the United States. If McAleenan went to prison for doing so, Trump said, he would pardon him. (The White House has denied that Trump said this.)

Flying back to Washington that evening, Nielsen arranged for a meeting with the president in the White House residence on Sunday afternoon. According to the former administration official, she intended to ask the president to create a “border czar” position, headquartered in the White House, to oversee the administration’s border and immigration policy in her place. It was an extraordinary request — a cabinet member voluntarily proposing to cede a share of her power. Before she could fully discuss it, though, Trump told her that he thought it was time for a change. Nielsen offered to step down, left the White House and wrote her resignation letter.

Lawyer calls on US immigration officials to reconsider deporting Irishman Keith Byrne

Lawyer calls on US immigration officials to reconsider deporting Irishman Keith Byrne Michael Kingston hand-delivered a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appealing to their 'moral authority'

If you took zero tolerance away, everybody would come right now Trump’s zero tolerance policy is a massive con job. To answer Chris Hayes’ questions: No This is just the latest and most cruel way the president has used minority and immigrant resent to keep his base how he likes them: ignorant

Only the stories are. SHARE YOUR STORY IMPORTANT NOTICE If you need legal advice on I have 2 younger siblings who are born in America . Sometimes I hate how unknowingly privileged I got a letter from NVC long time ago says that my visa was approved but they asked for someone to My father was heading to work when the immigration was waiting for him. They had a warrant for him.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Alex Wong/Getty Images Kirstjen Nielsen at the White House briefing on family separation on June 18, 2018.

On Sunday night, she was preparing to leave her post, when, according to two former senior administration officials, she and her advisers received urgent calls from White House officials, asking her to stay in the job a few extra days. Trump intended to name McAleenan as acting secretary, but in order for him to do so, the White House would need to fire Nielsen’s acting deputy secretary, Claire Grady — who by law would become acting secretary once Nielsen stepped down. Nielsen would also need to rewrite the department’s orders of succession so that in the absence of a secretary and a deputy secretary, the head of C.B.P. became acting secretary.

In a subsequent conversation, Nielsen told Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the exchange, that she thought it was a bad idea and that Trump should just nominate McAleenan to be secretary. But Mulvaney explained that Trump preferred the “flexibility” of having his homeland security secretary be an acting one. (Mulvaney currently serves as Trump’s acting chief of staff.) Nielsen acceded to Trump’s wishes. “I share the president’s goal of securing the border,” Nielsen told a gaggle of reporters outside her rowhouse in Alexandria, Va., the next morning as she headed to D.H.S. headquarters. “I will continue to support all efforts to address the humanitarian and security crisis on the border. And other than that, I’m on my way to keep doing what I can for the next few days.”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © AP Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen talks outside her home in Alexandria, Va, United States

From the first day of his 2016 presidential campaign, when he used his kickoff speech in Trump Tower to rail against Mexican immigrants who were “rapists” and who were “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States, immigration has been Trump’s lodestar. In his first week in the White House, Trump issued his “travel ban” executive order blocking citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Last December, he shut down the federal government for five weeks — the longest government shutdown in American history — over congressional Democrats’ refusal to allocate $5 billion for the construction of a border wall. Today, Trump’s extreme focus on combating illegal immigration is manifested in the overcrowded detention facilities packed with sick, unwashed and hungry adults and children along the Southwest border.

Keith Byrne released from immigration custody pending hearing as family 'thrilled'

Keith Byrne released from immigration custody pending hearing as family 'thrilled' Keith Byrne released from immigration custody pending hearing as family 'thrilled'

Central American migrants look through the border wall near the ocean in Tijuana, Mexico, in April. In two speeches before law enforcement officials in Arizona and California, Sessions expanded on the " zero tolerance " policy against illegal immigration he first announced last month.

Supporting Trump in all this are a group of immigration restrictionists — officials and advisers who have single-mindedly pursued a policy of not just cracking down on illegal border-crossing, in the manner of conventional immigration hawks, but also limiting all immigration to the best of their ability. Chief among them is Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. Since arriving in Washington a decade ago, Miller, who is 33, has been even more focused than Trump on reducing both illegal and legal immigration to the United States. In 2014, as an aide to Sessions — who was an Alabama senator at the time and who holds similar views — Miller worked with media allies at Breitbart and The Daily Caller to gin up conservative outrage that was instrumental in scuttling bipartisan immigration-reform legislation. In 2016, as a staff member on Trump’s presidential campaign, he not only wrote the candidate’s hard-line anti-immigration speeches but also often served as the warm-up act at his rallies. “They say, ‘Oh, well, we’re going to secure the border,’ ” Miller told a crowd in Las Vegas in June 2016. “Do they ever get it secure, folks?” The crowd roared: “Nooooooo!”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters Migrants fleeing tear gas fired by C.B.P. officers near San Diego on Nov. 25, 2018.

Miller is the architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy — but staffing an entire federal government with Stephen Millers is an unrealistic proposition. Expertise and experience must be drawn on, however reluctantly; career agency employees can’t just be fired and replaced en masse. A defining conflict of the Trump administration, accordingly, has been the one between the small group of ideologues like Miller and the much bigger cadres of conventional Republican appointees who have gone to work for Trump.

For that group, Trump’s presidency has offered a Faustian bargain. Because many of the senior, thoroughly qualified Republicans who would have filled out, say, a Jeb Bush administration refused — or were refused — jobs under Trump, his presidency has provided a remarkable opportunity for more junior, or less distinguished, bureaucracy climbers to ascend to heights of government that they might not otherwise have reached anytime soon, if ever. But doing so has required them to acquiesce to, and often execute, policies that both Democratic and Republican administrations previously considered beyond the pale — all while reassuring themselves that if they were not there, the administration’s policies would be even more extreme.

Perhaps nowhere has the bargain been rendered in starker terms than in the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most of the country’s immigration system. This article is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former department and government officials. Most of them requested anonymity so that they could speak candidly and because they feared retribution. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a list of detailed queries regarding this article. In response to an inquiry, Hogan Gidley, the principal deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement: “These are just more baseless, phony fabrications from angry Beltway bureaucrats who oppose the president’s strong determination to create a lawful, sane immigration system that serves the American people.”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Doug Mills/The New York Times

The story the current and former officials tell is one of a cabinet department buffeted by “irrational” demands and “silly ideas,” as it has struggled with its role as the tip of the spear of the president’s top policy priority. Indeed, for the past two and a half years — whether it was the travel ban or family separation or now the humanitarian crisis at the border — D.H.S. has found itself at the center of some of the Trump administration’s greatest political controversies and moral dilemmas.

The third-largest cabinet department, behind Defense and Veterans Affairs, D.H.S. has an amorphous, and often contradictory, internal culture. This is partly because of its newness — the department is not even 20 years old — but also a result of its myriad components, which were kludged together by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks. C.B.P. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for instance, tend to be conservative, aggressive law-enforcement agencies. (This month, ProPublica revealed a secret Facebook group for current and former C.B.P. agents, in which its 9,500 members joked about the deaths of migrants and made vulgar remarks about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic politicians.) The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard, by contrast, are better known for rescuing people than for arresting them. It often seems as if the only thing the various component parts of the department share is an intense inferiority complex. “It’s set up so there’s not a thing D.H.S. can do that’s an achievement,” says Scott Shuchart, an attorney who used to work at the department. “All D.H.S. can do is avoid blame for bad things happening.”

In the months after Trump’s election and before his inauguration, immigration restrictionists who had been on his campaign (including Miller and Steve Bannon) or who had joined the transition team (like Gene Hamilton and Rick Dearborn, both of whom had worked with Miller in Sessions’s Senate office) pushed Trump to appoint Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who shared their views, as homeland security secretary. But after a meeting with Kobach at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump grew cold on the idea. (Transition officials had their own set of concerns. According to a recent Axios report, Kobach’s vetting documents listed “white supremacy” as one of his “political vulnerabilities.” Kobach could not be reached for comment.)

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Pedro Pardo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A caravan of migrants in Mexico, en route to the United States border on Oct. 21, 2018.

Trump ultimately offered the D.H.S. job to John Kelly, a retired Marine general. The immigration restrictionists around Trump seemed amenable to the choice. Although they didn’t view him as an ideological fellow traveler in the mold of Kobach, they, like Trump, believed that Kelly’s military background would make him a reliable ally and someone who would follow orders.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s homeland security secretary, was friendly with Kelly from when they both worked in the Pentagon. In late November 2016, they met to discuss the job at Arlington National Cemetery by the grave of Kelly’s son, Robert, who was killed while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. Johnson’s initial orientation as secretary had been toward counterterrorism, which, under his predecessors, had been the cornerstone of its mission. But illegal immigration soon became a focus as well. Obama was trying to get House Republicans to support a comprehensive immigration-reform package that had passed the Senate, and he felt he needed to show a good-faith effort on enforcement in order to win their support. (The effort ultimately failed.) During Johnson’s tenure, the department expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include over four million more immigrants who came to the United States as undocumented children; it also cracked down on people who crossed the border illegally and undocumented immigrants with criminal records, deporting nearly three million individuals during Obama’s eight years in office — the most of any president, including Trump, to date.

Johnson left his conversation with Kelly thinking that Kelly would take a similar approach. “I believe that his mind-set then was pro-enforcement with some compassion,” Johnson recalls. “I think he actually could have been Hillary Clinton’s D.H.S. secretary.”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Reuters Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson

As the head of the United States Southern Command — his last military post before retiring from the Marines in 2016 — Kelly spent three years working in Latin America. While he favored strong border security and enforcement, he also believed, according to his advisers, that the United States wouldn’t be able to stanch the immigration flow unless it helped the Mexican, Honduran, El Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments improve economic and security conditions in their countries. “He understood the motivation of people in Central America to get the hell out of Central America and go to the United States,” says James Nealon, a former United States ambassador to Honduras who worked with Kelly at Southern Command.

During the transition, restrictionists close to Trump pushed for Kobach to become Kelly’s deputy secretary, but Kelly disagreed with Kobach’s policies, like his goal of immediately barring all Syrian refugees. According to Trump transition officials, Kelly was also turned off by Kobach’s insistence that as deputy secretary, he would require his own plane and dedicated security staff.

Similarly, Kelly was cool to Miller’s intentions to appoint the heads of the National Border Patrol Council and the National Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Council, two department employee unions that endorsed Trump during the campaign, as the directors of C.B.P. and ICE. “They’d never been supervisors, not even GS-13s” — a lower supervisory rank — “and Stephen wanted to elevate them to be agency heads,” says a former homeland security official who served on the transition team. “It was ridiculous.”

Miller and other Trump transition officials in turn nixed some of Kelly’s preferred hires. After Kelly offered his chief of staff job to Alan Metzler, a former Air Force colonel who had served as a senior counselor to Johnson at the department, he was told by transition officials to rescind the offer. He turned instead to Nielsen, who had been his “sherpa” — the Washington word for the adviser who guides a nominee through Senate confirmation hearings. She worked as a midlevel aide on homeland security during George W. Bush’s administration — both in the White House and at the Transportation Security Administration — and later ran a cybersecurity consulting firm. She volunteered for Trump’s homeland security transition team with an eye toward possibly landing an under secretary job, but Kelly believed that she was suited to a larger role and tapped her as his chief of staff. Thad Bingel, a former D.H.S. official who was on Kelly’s transition team, says, “He saw that she was relentlessly dedicated.” According to Bingel, during the transition Nielsen typically put in 18-hour days despite a respiratory infection that caused her to cough so hard she cracked a rib. Kelly’s wife, Karen, described her as “a pit bull.”

According to a transition official, Miller and other immigration hard-liners wanted Kelly, during his Senate confirmation hearings, to testify in favor of building a border wall and freezing the asylum process. Kelly argued that it was standard for cabinet nominees not to commit to specific policies. Things came to a head the Friday before his Monday confirmation hearings, during a prep session at transition headquarters in Washington, in which Kelly and Dearborn got into a heated argument over whether Kelly would have to return for additional sessions that weekend. Only when Kelly flat out refused did Dearborn relent.

On Jan. 27, his seventh full day in office, Trump signed an executive order — drafted primarily by Miller and Bannon — banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. Homeland security officials, including Kelly and Nielsen, were given just a couple hours’ notice. Miller had provided Kelly’s staff with a thick binder full of immigration action items that the administration hoped to implement in its first 90 days, but the travel ban was not one of them, and now department officials scrambled to determine how to enforce it at the nation’s ports of entry. On the Friday evening after the travel ban was signed, Kevin McAleenan, then the head of C.B.P., emailed Hamilton, who was now working as a lawyer at D.H.S., asking if the ban applied to green-card holders from the seven countries: “We have 300 in the air inbound right now,” McAleenan wrote.

At airports across the country, travelers with the legal right to enter the country suddenly found themselves detained for hours in windowless rooms. Airlines struggled to advise their passengers, as thousands of protesters — including several Democratic senators — and volunteer lawyers massed outside arrival and departure halls. The travel ban threw the department into disarray for a week, until a federal judge blocked the order. The debacle momentarily strengthened Kelly’s hand. When Miller or his allies came to him with policy recommendations, Kelly would tell them, “My boss is the president of the United States.”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Office of Inspector General/Department of Homeland Security, via Getty Images Migrants in a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Tex., on June 10. Government inspectors deemed it overcrowded.

In early March, Kelly traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a meeting on how the administration could put travel restrictions in place. In attendance were Trump, Miller, Sessions, Jared Kushner, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and a host of other top immigration officials — as well as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was spending that weekend at his home near Mar-a-Lago and apparently wandered into the meeting. Kelly argued that D.H.S., working with the State Department and the intelligence community, should establish a methodology for determining which countries warranted additional scrutiny of their citizens.

Over the next several months, D.H.S. did just that. Miller would question the methodology, arguing that a host of other African and Asian nations should face restrictions as well. “He’d say: ‘These are s***** countries with lots of criminals. Why aren’t they under restrictions?’ ” the former administration official recalls. “And then we’d have to explain to him, ‘Well, look, when the embassy went to those countries, they’d clearly met baseline standards, and they were also deemed to be a low threat.’ He was frustrated by that.” (Miller declined to comment.)

When the revised travel ban was issued in September, it covered eight countries, not the two dozen or so that Miller sought. Nonetheless, Kelly continued to worry about what immigration policies were being developed without his knowledge and what was on, as Nielsen described it to several people, Miller’s “secret scroll.”

Trump, meanwhile, seemed surprised by the limitations of his — and the American government’s — power to curb immigration. According to former senior administration officials, Trump frequently suggested that C.B.P. officers venture a few hundred yards into Mexico to prevent migrants from reaching the border — only to be reminded that because the officers would be in Mexico, they would be violating the law unless they were authorized to be there.

Trump repeatedly returned to a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the federal law that governs immigration and citizenship. The provision, Section 212(f), grants the president broad authority to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens” if the president determines that such entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Miller cited the provision in the January 2017 executive order instituting the travel ban — a third version of which, still citing the provision, was finally upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 decision in June 2018 — and made 212(f) a buzzword among fellow immigration hard-liners, like the Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, who regularly talks to Trump. Trump has invoked 212(f) when encouraging administration officials to enact extreme — and most likely illegal — policies, including freezing asylum applications and denying migrants deportation hearings before sending them home.

“The president would endlessly sit in meetings with the secretary and say, ‘I don’t know why you’re dicking around,’ ” the former administration official recalls. “ ‘You have this magical authority — it’s called 2-something-something; it allows you to keep anyone out.’ ” When administration officials, including White House counsels, informed Trump that 212(f) does not in fact give him the legal authority to override other parts of that or any other federal law, the president would often tell the story of how he once put up a giant flagpole at Mar-a-Lago. It violated Palm Beach ordinances, resulting in fines and a lawsuit by Trump, but he was ultimately allowed to keep it after he and Palm Beach officials agreed to a court-ordered settlement.

“His constant instinct all the time was: Just do it, and if we get sued, we get sued,” a former senior administration official says. “To him, it’s all a negotiation. Almost as if the first step is a lawsuit. I guess he thinks that because that’s how business worked for him in the private sector. But federal law is different, and there really isn’t a settling step when you break federal law.”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Reuters

When Kelly became White House chief of staff in July 2017, his deputy at D.H.S., a career official named Elaine Duke, became acting secretary. But Miller, according to senior administration officials, deemed Duke to be “not on the team,” and she was never considered as a permanent successor. After several months of fruitless searching, Kelly ultimately recommended Nielsen — who had come to the White House with him and was serving as his principal deputy chief of staff — for the job.

Nielsen has maintained to friends and colleagues that she took the position only reluctantly and out of a sense of duty — that she believed in the department’s mission and wanted to prevent someone worse from becoming secretary. “As long as Kelly and Nielsen were going to be in the Trump administration,” the former administration official says, “Kris Kobach was not.”

But it was also a remarkable opportunity. After all, Nielsen had a much thinner résumé than her predecessors at the job: former governors, judges and upper-echelon government lawyers. James Nealon, who worked with Nielsen as the department’s assistant secretary for international engagement, describes her as “a super staffer.” But it’s a general rule of Washington that staff members, even super staffers, don’t become cabinet officers — much less when they’re still in their 40s.

Not long after Nielsen was sworn in as homeland security secretary in December 2017, according to a current and a former administration official, McAleenan alerted her to a rise in illegal border crossings. If the trend continued, he warned, by the spring — when border crossings typically peak — the immigration system would most likely be so overwhelmed that the department would no longer be able to process, much less interdict, new arrivals. Together with Thomas Homan, then the acting director of ICE, and L. Francis Cissna, then the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that handles the country’s legal immigration procedures — he urged Nielsen to take some sort of drastic action.

One option McAleenan, Homan and Cissna presented to Nielsen, according to the current and former administration officials, was instituting a policy of separating migrant children from their families. Because of a consent decree known as the Flores settlement, C.B.P. is prohibited from holding immigrant children caught illegally crossing the border with their guardians for more than 20 days. This meant that adult immigrants, if they illegally came across the border with their children, would be released — often immediately or at the longest after 20 days — when their children were required to be released. Separating the children from their parents, department officials argued, would allow C.B.P. to detain the adults longer.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Christopher Lee for The New York Times Protests against the travel ban, Kennedy Airport, Jan. 28, 2017.

According to former senior administration officials, Kelly, when he was homeland security secretary, had been urged by other administration officials to institute such a family-separation policy. Publicly, Kelly said he was considering such a move. “I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States,” he told CNN in March 2017. But according to former senior administration officials, he privately rejected it, and the idea was tabled.

Now Nielsen rejected it as well. But as the border numbers kept rising, the pressure on Nielsen to do something only grew — and it was no longer coming from just her deputies. Toward the end of 2017, Gene Hamilton, Miller’s old ally at D.H.S., moved over to the Department of Justice, where he was reunited with Sessions, his old Senate boss. Not long after Hamilton’s arrival, the attorney general began to assert himself more aggressively on immigration matters. In early April 2018, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would institute a policy of “zero tolerance” for undocumented immigrants. For the last two decades, under Democratic and Republican presidents, people who were caught crossing the border for the first time were typically charged with misdemeanors and then released. Under the zero-tolerance policy, all undocumented immigrants would be “met with the full prosecutorial power of the Department of Justice,” as Sessions put it.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © AP

The timing of the attorney general’s announcement caught Nielsen by surprise — and it presented her with a problem. For the Trump administration to be able to prosecute all undocumented immigrants, C.B.P. would have to refer their cases to the Justice Department, which would mean separating parents from their children while the parents awaited prosecution. Later that April, McAleenan, Homan and Cissna wrote Nielsen a memo recommending that D.H.S. start doing just that.

According to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the memo, they noted that the Trump administration had run a pilot zero-tolerance program along parts of the border in Texas and New Mexico for four months in 2017 and that the number of families trying to cross illegally had gone down 64 percent, only to rise again when the program was paused. After receiving the memo, Nielsen met with McAleenan, Homan and Cissna at the Ronald Reagan Building near the White House. There, according to former senior administration officials, she told them that she felt boxed in, but she agreed to their recommendation.

Nielsen and department officials would insist that they never approved, nor sought to impose, a policy of family separation per se — that they were just following the Justice Department’s new zero-tolerance policy. In May 2018, under questioning from Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, Nielsen told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that “we do not have a policy to separate children from their parents. Our policy is if you break the law, we will prosecute you. You have an option to go to a port of entry and not illegally cross into our country.” The next month Nielsen tweeted: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

But, of course, the end result of enforcing zero-tolerance was a policy of family separation — one for which the Trump administration turned out to be woefully unprepared. D.H.S. officials maintain that Justice Department officials assured them that the prosecutions would be swift — often within hours, and almost certainly within days, so the children could be reunited with their parents and then sent back to their home countries before the Flores settlement provisions kicked in. But those assurances turned out to be false.

By the end of May, about six weeks after the zero-tolerance policy went into effect, more than 2,000 children had been separated from their parents, and many remained so. Sometimes parents were informed about what was happening. Other times they were not. Some migrant parents told reporters and judges that C.B.P. officers took their children away under the pretense that the children were going to get baths. Worse, the Trump administration did not have a plan to reunite the children with their parents. The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services later determined that the government had no centralized database to track the children or to match them with their parents. In a July 2018 court filing, the administration admitted that 463 parents who were separated from their children were deported while the children remained in the United States.

As children were kept in mass detention centers that ranged from tents to an empty big-box store, or were placed with foster families thousands of miles from the border, and parents appeared before judges tearfully pleading for information about where their children were and when they would see them again, the Trump administration was facing a crisis of its own making. Obama, momentarily abandoning his reluctance to comment on the Trump presidency, released a statement asking, “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?” The former first lady Laura Bush wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she declared the zero-tolerance policy “cruel” and “immoral.” The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement saying that the Trump administration was guilty of “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

In the middle of June, with public furor at a fever pitch, Nielsen was on a flight back to Washington when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, called. Sanders wanted Nielsen to explain the administration’s immigration policy in the White House press room that afternoon. When Nielsen landed, she immediately headed to the White House and Kelly’s office, where she met with Kelly, Sanders and a handful of White House and D.H.S. aides.

According to people familiar with the conversation, Kelly told Nielsen that she should not go in front of the press. “You are not the brains behind this policy,” Kelly said, “so you shouldn’t be the face.” But Sanders countered that the White House did not want the brains — Sessions — to mount its defense. “She’s a female, she’s a little bit more articulate and she’s not a Southern man in his 70s who’s been tagged with being racially insensitive,” a former White House official explains. Nielsen agreed to do it.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Getty

Nielsen, according to people close to her, still has not watched the video of her June 18 news conference. For nearly 30 minutes, she was bombarded with questions that she struggled to answer. “Have you seen the photos of children in cages?” the ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega asked Nielsen. “Have you heard the audio clip of these children wailing?” Vega continued, referring to a recording released that day by ProPublica of a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl, separated from her parents by C.B.P. agents, crying for her mother and father.

Nielsen said she had neither seen the pictures nor heard the audio. “But I have been to detention centers,” she added. “And again, I would reference you to our standards.”

“How is this not child abuse?” another reporter asked.

“Be more specific, please,” Nielsen replied. “Enforcing the law?”

When the White House briefing was over, Kelly’s warning to Nielsen had proved true. “Family separation is her legacy,” says Kayyem, the former homeland security official. “She could have saved America from a Category 20 hurricane, and there’d still be no other legacy for her.”

The evening after the briefing, Nielsen went to dinner with her chief of staff at an upscale Mexican restaurant near the White House. In the middle of her meal, a swarm of protesters, tipped off to her presence there by another diner, descended on the restaurant and surrounded her table chanting: “Shame! Shame!” One protester shouted, “How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you are deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?!” Nielsen stared down at her phone. A few days later, protesters appeared outside Nielsen’s rowhouse in Alexandria, Va. In January, an anonymous person called 911 to falsely report that someone at Nielsen’s home address was holding hostages inside. A SWAT team was sent, only to be intercepted by Nielsen’s Secret Service detail.

On June 20, the morning after Nielsen’s interrupted dinner, Trump alerted Nielsen and other administration officials that, in part because of entreaties from Melania and Ivanka Trump, he was ready to end the policy of family separation — that he wanted, in other words, to make a show of fixing the problem he had caused. He intended to issue an executive order stating that it was now the policy of the Trump administration to keep families together. He wanted the order to be issued that day.

Related: Famous declassified government secrets (Stacker)

Nielsen rushed to the White House, where Don McGahn, the White House counsel at the time, and other officials were scrambling to comply with Trump’s wishes. That afternoon, she stood behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, having just read what she thought was a copy of the executive order Trump was signing in front of reporters. But when she returned to D.H.S. headquarters, according to former senior administration officials, she discovered that her draft was an early one and that Trump had actually signed a different version, containing contradictory instructions. In their haste to put something in front of the president to sign — most executive orders take days if not weeks or months to draft — administration officials had written an order calling for an end to separating immigrant children from their parents but also reaffirming Sessions’s zero-tolerance policy. Nielsen huddled with aides and decided that keeping families together was Trump’s intention and that D.H.S. would stop referring cases involving families to the Justice Department.

Over the subsequent months, Trump would occasionally muse to Nielsen and other administration officials that he was thinking about reinstating a policy of family separation — which, of course, Nielsen and those officials maintained was never an actual policy. After Democrats took back the House of Representatives in November, Nielsen, according to former senior administration officials, became especially adamant that Trump and other administration officials understand the difference, as she viewed it, between zero-tolerance and family separation. She was concerned that House Democrats, now armed with subpoena power, might investigate her for perjury, because she had testified before Congress that there was no policy of family separation — only the Justice Department’s zero-tolerance policy.

By then, though, potential perjury charges were merely one among many worries for Nielsen. Trump was in a state of near panic over caravans of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico toward the United States border. Although immigration activists and Democrats suspected that the caravan crisis was an attempt by Trump to help Republicans in the midterm elections, the president, according to people who discussed the matter with him, appeared to be quite sincere in his fears. Some administration officials theorized that Trump was overly influenced by Fox News, which was giving the caravan extensive coverage.

Trump was impressed by an incident that occurred at the San Ysidro border crossing in November, when C.B.P. officers used tear gas to disperse immigrants on the Mexican side of the border. Although the decision to use tear gas was made by the C.B.P. officers stationed there, Trump, according to a former administration official, believed that Nielsen had ordered it. “He thought, ‘Man, she’s got balls,’ ” recalls the former administration official. “And then he started to say to her: ‘You’re being really tough. I had no idea you had this in you.’ ” No one disabused Trump of his misimpression.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Getty Former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (R) speaks with US President Donald Trump

Managing Trump’s media-shaped understanding of the reality at hand was half the task when it came to another one of his immigration policy priorities: his crusade to build a new border wall. Originally conceived during the 2016 campaign as a mnemonic device by the Trump campaign aides Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone to get Trump to remember to bring up immigration at his rallies, it had become, for Trump, the physical embodiment and sine qua non of his pledge to “stop illegal immigration” — enough so that it has often distracted him, and administration officials, from pursuing other responses to the problem that homeland security officials considered more effective. “The president had one thing he wanted,” a former administration official says, “and so his dedication to that one thing forced us to compromise on everything else.”

The biggest initial hurdle administration officials faced with the wall was Trump’s insistence that it be concrete, so as to look more intimidating. C.B.P. officials had told Kelly that they preferred a material besides concrete, because the inability to see what was on the other side of it would interfere with operational safety. Kelly and Nielsen took these concerns to Trump, but he was unmoved. They eventually explained to Trump that the concrete version might be structurally unsound, which seemed to persuade Trump — but it introduced a new complication. Although Trump was fine with the steel-bollard wall favored by the C.B.P., he couldn’t abide by the wall’s “anti-climb” feature — barrels that sit atop the barrier — which he doubted would deter climbers, and the steel stabilization bar that ran across the top of the bollards, which he found aesthetically displeasing.

Nielsen, who by this time was homeland security secretary, at one point resorted to taking a portable video player to the Oval Office so Trump could watch footage of people trying (and failing) to scale a wall with the anti-climb feature. Trump acknowledged its apparent efficacy but still objected to the stabilization bar. “It needs to be beautiful,” he told Nielsen and other administration officials.

Slowly, Nielsen and her colleagues began to bring Trump around to the proposed features, but not without hiccups. On several occasions, Trump was watching Fox News when old sections of border barrier would flash on the screen. Thinking it was new construction, he called Nielsen and other officials in a fury, according to people familiar with their exchanges, only to be told that Fox was running “B-roll” — old footage of pre-existing sections.

In a December 2018 Oval Office meeting with Nielsen and several other administration officials, Trump abruptly raised the topic of the wall and announced that he had some other design improvements he wanted incorporated, including sharper spikes and black paint on the bollards. “We couldn’t even believe we were having this conversation with him again,” the former administration official says. Nielsen took Trump’s ideas back to D.H.S. and had C.B.P. wall experts mock up an image of a steel wall with pointed slats, with a Border Patrol S.U.V. at its base for scale. Trump was overjoyed and tweeted out the image, writing, “A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” The next day, Trump shut down the government over Congress’s refusal to include $5.7 billion in funding for the wall in its budget deal.

During the 35-day shutdown, Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, inserted himself into the negotiations to try to reopen the government. Part of Kushner’s effort included receiving a crash course on immigration policy. (The Washington Post reported that when Kushner once explained to the president and a group of administration officials what compromises he believed Democrats were looking for, Trump interjected, “Apparently, Jared has become an expert on immigration in the last 48 hours.”) One January evening at the White House during a meeting on immigration with McAleenan, Miller and several other administration officials, Kushner posed a question to McAleenan, according to a person familiar with the exchange. Which would he choose: congressional funding for a wall across the 2,000 miles of the Southwest border and nothing else, or Congress instead closing the legal loopholes that incentivized illegal immigration, including overriding the Flores settlement, tightening asylum rules and amending anti-trafficking laws to expand expedited processing for children? The wall, McAleenan told Kushner, would reduce illegal immigration by 20 or 30 percent. Closing the loopholes, he said, would reduce illegal immigration by 70 to 80 percent.

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story © Getty

As the wall fight raged on, Miller was pursuing another policy vision. He had long been a proponent of an especially aggressive form of “interior enforcement,” in particular directing ICE to arrest and deport migrant families living illegally in the United States far from the Southwest border — an expansion of the Obama-era policy, which targeted only undocumented migrants accused of serious crimes. Kelly and Nielsen had both resisted the idea at various points in the Trump administration. Although immigration activists have objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would terrorize migrant families, those who opposed it inside the administration tended to couch their objections in operational terms — namely that the federal government lacked the resources to pursue and hold so many undocumented immigrants while they awaited deportation, and that therefore the emphasis should remain on felons.

But early this year, Miller returned to increased interior enforcement with a renewed focus and fury. He began summoning administration officials, many of them junior, for regular meetings, sometimes on Friday afternoons in the White House Situation Room, about immigration and border policy. During these meetings, according to the former senior administration official, Miller began agitating for ICE to expand its deportation efforts, pursuing not just felons for deportation but families as well. His entreaties struck a chord with Matthew Albence, the deputy director of ICE, who had been in charge of ICE’s removal and enforcement operations. “Stephen found an ally in Albence,” a D.H.S. official says. And Albence began drawing up detailed plans for a sweeping interior-enforcement operation that would target tens of thousands of illegal migrants, and their families, in 10 large cities.

The plan also reflected Trump’s own preoccupations. “The president himself is very personally insecure that the deportation numbers under the Obama administration were higher than his numbers are,” the former administration official says, noting that the 256,000 undocumented immigrants deported by the Trump administration last year paled in comparison with the nearly 410,000 the Obama administration deported in 2012.

Related: Donald Trump's competition in the 2020 presidential run (StarsInsider)

According to people familiar with his plans, Albence hoped to begin the operation without Nielsen’s knowledge or approval. In March, he took the plan to his boss, Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, and told him that he intended to start the operation in the next 72 hours. Vitiello told Albence that he needed to get Nielsen’s go-ahead. Albence and ICE officials then briefed Nielsen. After several meetings, Nielsen refused to give the operation — which came to be known inside D.H.S. as the “family op” — her O.K. on the grounds that ICE’s plans were still inadequate and that after the family-separation debacle the public backlash would be too intense.

But within weeks, Nielsen had resigned and Trump had withdrawn Vitiello’s nomination to be ICE director. “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction,” the president explained. McAleenan, replacing Nielsen as acting secretary, argued for a more limited operation that didn’t target families, but he did not veto the plan outright. Mark Morgan, the Obama-era head of the Border Patrol whom Trump tapped to succeed Vitiello at ICE after Morgan staked out a hard-line anti-immigration position on Fox News, enthusiastically supported the operation.

In early July, the acting C.B.P. commissioner, John Sanders, resigned, and Trump moved Morgan over to C.B.P., elevating Albence to acting director at ICE. Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and avowed restrictionist, took over as the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. In early July, he told the Fox Business Network that the interior-enforcement operation was imminent. “The president’s determined about it,” Cuccinelli said. “I’m sure Matt Albence is ready and raring to go.”

The game of musical chairs at D.H.S. has given Miller what only two years ago seemed impossible: a department staffed with Stephen Millers. For all of Kelly’s and Nielsen’s compromises and failures to rein in or redirect — much less reject — the extreme policies promoted by Miller and other restrictionists, D.H.S. during their tenures did at least provide a counterweight to the restrictionists’ most extreme ideas and impulses, a speed bump on the road to the harshest immigration policy in America’s recent history. Now that obstacle is gone.

In the wake of Nielsen’s departure, numerous other senior D.H.S. officials have followed her to the exits — so much so that the department currently has a handful of political appointees performing the jobs for which the Senate confirmed them. “Since Nielsen left,” a former D.H.S. official says, the department “has been gutted at all levels, from component heads to assistant secretaries to senior staff to counselors. It’s just been gutted.”

“This is exactly what the White House gets,” a former administration official says of D.H.S. today, “when this is their way of managing.” Which, of course, may well have been the intention all along.

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.


Keith Byrne released from immigration custody pending hearing as family 'thrilled'.
Keith Byrne released from immigration custody pending hearing as family 'thrilled'

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks

Topical videos:

usr: 1
This is interesting!