Purges Won’t Help Trump

Let us begin by acknowledging that there are big problems regarding migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border. One might say those problems add up to a crisis, although the real crisis isn’t the one Donald Trump talks about, which is a figment of his imagination.

Make no mistake — there is a border crisis. The US is seeing something genuinely unprecedented: large numbers of children and families, often in large groups, crossing the border without papers to turn themselves in to US authorities. The immigration enforcement system, not particularly well-equipped to handle vulnerable migrants without papers at all, is cracking under the strain. The gap between what’s happening and the government’s ability to deal with it is, by most definitions, a policy crisis.

This crisis is being made worse by Trump’s utter failure to manage it. Instead of dealing with the real crisis, he keeps responding to the imaginary one.

So Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is out, because Trump needed to blame somebody for his own failures.

“Two senior administration officials said that Nielsen had no intention of quitting when she went to the meeting Sunday with the president and that she was forced to step down,” Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Maria Sacchetti report. “Trump told aides last fall that he wanted to fire Nielsen … She appeared to regain her footing after U.S. Border Patrol agents used tear gas to repel a large crowd attempting to break through a border fence — the kind of ‘tough’ action Trump said he wanted … The president grew frustrated with Nielsen again early this year as the number of migrants rose and as she raised legal concerns about some of Trump’s more severe impulses, particularly when his demands clashed with U.S. immigration laws and federal court orders.”

This is a central theme in all the news accounts of why Trump turned on her.

“The president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum,” the New York Times reports. “She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations. Those responses only infuriated Mr. Trump further.”

I’m no fan of Nielsen, but by all accounts the real power in the White House now belongs to ignorant and malevolent dweeb Steven Miller. Apparently Miller is to Trump what Karl Rove used to be to George Dubya Bush. Be afraid.

Greg Sargent:

Trump fired Nielsen because he wants a “tougher” approach to the migrant crisis than Nielsen has implemented.

Along those lines, Politico reports that Nielsen’s ouster reflects Trump immigration adviser Stephen Miller’s consolidation of power inside the administration. Miller is trying to bring in more immigration “hard-liners,” because he is “frustrated by the lack of headway” that the administration has made on immigration.

That “lack of headway” is that migrants keep coming to the border — the number could reach 1 million this year. Most of them are asylum-seeking families, and Trump is in a rage about them, leading him to lurch erratically from one posture to another.

Trump and his brain, Miller, can’t see any solution that isn’t even more draconian than what has already been tried and failed.

As President Donald Trump roils the capital over illegal immigration, his influential aide Stephen Miller is playing a more aggressive behind-the-scenes role in a wider administration shakeup.

Frustrated by the lack of headway on a signature Trump campaign issue, the senior White House adviser has been arguing for personnel changes to bring in more like-minded hardliners, according to three people familiar with the situation — including the ouster of a key immigration official at the Department of Homeland Security, whose secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, announced Sunday that she is resigning. …

… “There’s definitely a larger shakeup abreast being led by Stephen Miller and the staunch right wing within the administration,” said a person close to Nielsen, who resigned Sunday after months of pressure from a president who felt she was not tough enough on illegal immigration. “They failed with the courts and with Congress and now they’re eating their own.”

Indeed, Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo reports that a purge has begun.

On the tail of the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the withdrawal of the nomination of would-be ICE director Ronald Vitiello, Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles is leaving his position, as well, CNN first reported Monday. …

…CNN also reported that there could be additional high-level removals at DHS in what one unnamed source described as a “purge.”

Per the report, DHS General Counsel John Mitnick and U.S. Citizienship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna “are expected to be gone soon.” CNN added that the White House could remove additional officials at the department as well.

NBC News also reported that there could be additional ousters, but did not confirm which officials could be fired.


The new acting head of DHS, Kevin McAleenan, is said to have proved himself by being willing to do Trump’s dirty work.

McAleenan has carried out some of Trump’s most controversial efforts to halt undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from crossing the southern border.

The customs officers and Border Patrol agents he commands separated more than 2,800 migrant children from their families during Trump’s now-blocked “zero tolerance” policy.

His officers fired tear gas into a crowd of migrants attempting to approach the San Ysidro Port of Entry in November, leading to questions about the administration’s response to a rush of asylum-seeking migrants. … His overall approach to the southern border has remained consistently in line with Trump’s.

Other news sources are saying that McAleenan is not an ideologue or a fire-breather, so we should stop thinking the worst. Perhaps it can be said that McAleenan is a guy who just follows orders.

Going back to Greg Sargent — this column is worth reading all the way through — it appears that Trump doesn’t just want to stop people without proper papers from entering the country; he wants to end asylum seeking. This is not something he has the power to do, but he’s too stupid to understand that.