Ex-DHS Chief Nielsen Reveals Why She Resigned

At 'Fortune' summit, Kirstjen Nielsen also says has no regrets on 'enforcing law' that separated families
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2019 7:55 AM CDT

"These conversations can be tough, and arguably should be tough, as I'm sure this next one will be" is how the intro for Kirstjen Nielsen went at Tuesday's Most Powerful Women Summit sponsored by Fortune magazine. And interviewer Amna Nawaz got right into it with the former Homeland Security secretary, immediately asking her if she regretted signing a 2018 memo that would allow for families to be separated at the border with Mexico, per USA Today. Nielsen first acknowledged that the issue is "very divisive, it's very emotional, it's very complex, lives are at stake," and that "the system is broken," but in terms of regrets at signing the memo, her answer was a no. "I don't regret enforcing the law, because I took an oath to do that," the 47-year-old replied after not directly answering Nawaz's question about her regrets for several minutes.

Nielsen does think "the coordination and information flow were simply insufficient for that number of people coming," in terms of reuniting families, per CNN. She also noted there were "things" the Trump administration wanted to do, and that "it became clear that saying no, and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough," so she resigned. Nielsen's appearance at the event had been a controversial one, with Hillary Clinton and singer Brandi Carlile both dropping out; Slate says Clinton's withdrawal was officially due to scheduling conflicts, but a source says it was because of Nielsen's inclusion. Despite a 2018 executive order from President Trump putting a halt to the separations at the border, they've reportedly continued. Nielsen's replacement, Kevin McAleenan, stepped down as acting DHS chief earlier this month. Watch the full interview with Nielsen here. (More Kirstjen Nielsen stories.)

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