Senate confirms new US Homeland Security chief

Kirstjen Nielsen

The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday, almost two months after John Kelly left the agency to be the president's chief of staff.

Nielsen was chosen by the White House as the preferred nominee in early 2017 but waffled on the decision, which stalled the nomination of DHS leadership for months.

Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) were among those who voted alongside their Republican colleagues to confirm the former principal deputy to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as the new DHS secretary. Her confirmation Tuesday gives the White House a DHS chief well versed in the politics and policy goals of Trump's immigration enforcement agenda. The Department of Homeland Security was established in 2002 in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Nielsen was the second woman to head this ministry after Janet Napolitano, who was in office from 2009 to 2013. She served in the Transportation Security Administration during the George W. Bush administration and has also worked as a private-sector cybersecurity consultant. On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed her nomination.

Despite increasing prominence in the national conversation, cybersecurity was a secondary topic during Nielsen's confirmation hearing.

She will take over from acting secretary Elaine Duke, who filled the top job in a temporary capacity for more than four months, longer than any DHS chief in the agency's 15-year history.

Nielsen was confirmed 62 to 37, the narrowest margin ever to approve a DHS secretary. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, who voted against Nielsen's nomination, criticized her stances on immigration and the environment, as well as her experience.

Nielsen's "work in and around the department since its creation, as well as her knowledge of cybersecurity, risk management and critical infrastructure, should serve her well in confronting the daunting threats to our homeland", said Sen.

"There is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea", Nielsen said.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Nielsen a qualified candidate with the talent and experience to succeed.

As we reported in October, Michael Dougherty, assistant DHS secretary for Border Immigration and Trade, said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 3 that the Trump administration would support legislation allowing illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to gain lawful permanent status and eventually citizenship.

As we noted in that report, the Trump administration's actions left Original DACA recipients unaffected.

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