Nielsen Talks Tough On Immigration During First Trip To Southwest Border

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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New Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has kept up her tough talk on immigration enforcement during a multi-day trip to the Southwest border, calling out sanctuary cities and backing President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

After a stop in Austin Tuesday to discuss Texas’ anti-sanctuary cities law, Nielsen headed to the U.S.-Mexico border, where she called on local jurisdictions to cooperate with immigration authorities in the detention and deportation of criminal aliens.

Speaking in the border town of Hidalgo Wednesday, Nielsen said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under her leadership would work to make it “very, very difficult to remain here unlawfully,” reports the Washington Times.

Nielsen’s trip to the border comes days after her appearance earlier this week with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration’s leading immigration enforcement hawk. At the joint press conference, she echoed Sessions’s calls to curtail chain migration, end the diversity visa lottery, and tighten asylum rules to prevent fraudulent claims. (RELATED: New DHS Secretary Embraces Conservative Immigration Reforms)

Nielsen adopted the same tough enforcement stance in Texas, focusing this time on the border wall and sanctuary cities. She said the administration would begin additions to the existing barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande valley, where security fencing will see “major improvements” this year because the area experiences a high volume of illegal border crossings.

In terms of funding for the wall, a sore subject on Capitol Hill, Nielsen criticized Democrats who had voted to fund a border barrier in the past but now refuse to do so now that Trump is president.

“I also find it really confusing because as you know in 2006, we had a bill, the Secure Fence Act, that was largely bipartisan that would’ve done just this,” she told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, who accompanied her on the border visit.

Nielsen’s trip clarified her public position on immigration enforcement, a subject that was something of mystery even after her Senate confirmation hearing. Immigration hawks had been skeptical of her commitment to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, pointing to her connections to George W. Bush-era homeland security officials who became prominent members of the “Never Trump” movement.

In her first weeks as DHS chief, though, Nielsen has adopted the tough rhetoric of Sessions and Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who have been the administration’s most ardent critics of sanctuary cities.

On Tuesday in Austin, she said other states should emulate Texas, which earlier this year passed a strict anti-sanctuary cities law that prescribes jail time for local officials who don’t cooperate with immigration authorities. The law has been put on hold by a court challenge, but Nielsen praised it as a “firm stand against dangerous and destructive sanctuary cities.”

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