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The Stephen Miller purge of DHS

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Our panel discusses.

Posted: Apr 9, 2019 1:00 AM
Updated: Apr 9, 2019 1:00 AM

In a move better befitting an episode of "Game of Thrones" than the management of our government, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is reportedly ushering a "wholesale decapitation" of the Department of Homeland Security's leadership.

This week started with the ouster of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Her having presided over the Trump administration's too-sinister-to-be-true practice of deterring people from coming to the country by separating them from their toddlers clearly was not enough for President Trump and Miller. Her sacking also comes days after the withdrawal of the nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, citing a need to go in a "tougher direction." More firings are on the way.

Their fate is an object lesson in why we need to get immigration out of DHS and reset how we think and talk about immigration policy in America.

Ironically, despite the DHS' role in immigration policy, the agency's mandate goes far beyond immigration. Before using even the word "immigration," Nielsen's resignation letter references "enemies and adversaries," "cyberspace" and "emerging threats from new technologies." (This is striking, given that even a quick glance at the DHS website could lead most people to wonder whether DHS actually does anything other than immigration.)

All this highlights the enormous problems with how the United States government approaches immigration. By housing most of the agencies that deal with immigration in DHS, the US government wrongly suggests that immigration is exclusively a function of securing the homeland, of keeping the public safe. The President has capitalized on this, spending a tremendous amount of political energy on making immigration about crime and threat. Regardless of the merits of Trump's approach, we have a huge problem with how we approach immigration.

For starters, there is no reason that immigration as a government function could not be reconceived and housed in a new standalone Cabinet department. Quick civics lesson: The Constitution lays out very few exclusive powers to the federal government. A number of the jobs it identifies -- "to raise and support Armies" and "to regulate Commerce" to name two -- are, at least today, overseen by Cabinet secretaries who report directly to the President. None of this is required; in setting up the Departments of Defense and Commerce, Congress made policy choices reflecting how important each of these issues is to our success or failure as a country.

Congress could do the same when it comes to immigration. Right now, DHS is a behemoth that is impossible for any one person to manage effectively. It was formed in a rush to reform government after 9/11 and resulted in the merger of 22 agencies (among them ICE, which I helped lead for more than four years in the Obama administration) -- overseen by over 100 congressional committees -- that had little to do with each other beyond sharing a loose nexus to public safety. As a result, the secretary of Homeland Security is now responsible for overseeing everything from airport screening to helping Americans recover from tornadoes.

This structure benefits nobody. For starters, today, what would happen in the event of another major natural disaster or -- heaven forbid -- major terror attack? The leadership of DHS would certainly have to shift its energy and resources away from addressing immigration crises that aren't going anywhere any time soon. Even under the best of circumstances, nobody should be in the position of having to manage one entity with such a diffuse mandate. Moreover, putting so much on the DHS head's plate only leaves more room for immigration hardliners like Miller to swoop in, dictate our immigration policy, and force us deeper into believing that immigrants represent as grave a threat to the United States as cyberattackers do.

Ironically, even the President seems to recognize that we need to reconceive how we approach immigration. His latest solution -- creating a position of "border czar" to coordinate government efforts -- necessarily implies that our immigration system could use more tailored leadership. Of course, his proposal is more likely to score him political points than actually fix anything; he has proposed two immigration hard-liners who would further entrench the notion that immigrants make us less safe. But something needs to change.

Based on how the system is set up, Nielsen could never have succeeded. She served a President who benefits from instability. Any number of his major actions on immigration -- declaring a national emergency based on border security; threatening to close the border to all traffic from the south; manufacturing support for a border wall we largely don't need -- all fuel a political narrative that we ought to be scared, and that the President can live true to his campaign promise that "[he] alone can fix it." No DHS secretary, short of one committed to ending all immigrant border crossings, would ever have satisfied the President. I'm certain that incoming acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, a former colleague of whom I am fond, will not either.

When the structure of our government treats immigrants as a threat, government personnel are going to keep being fired for failing to stop all immigration. And immigrants will continue to be vilified.

It can't happen overnight, but it is time for a major reset. Congress has the power to hold hearings and restructure the system. That process should take into account every aspect of immigration -- its impacts on all labor sectors, on foreign relations, and on our identity as a welcoming nation just to name a few -- and not just on how much immigrants should frighten us.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 767409

Reported Deaths: 13980
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1054251805
Lake569191030
Allen42938698
St. Joseph37313568
Hamilton37298426
Elkhart29749470
Tippecanoe23479230
Vanderburgh23201405
Porter19573327
Johnson18822392
Hendricks18072321
Madison13548346
Clark13533198
Vigo12834256
LaPorte12566225
Monroe12546178
Delaware11143198
Howard10672237
Kosciusko9777124
Hancock8740150
Bartholomew8262157
Warrick8069157
Floyd8027182
Grant7366181
Wayne7233201
Boone7184105
Morgan6910143
Marshall6332116
Dubois6274118
Cass6090111
Dearborn601278
Noble599290
Henry5947111
Jackson516377
Shelby510898
Lawrence4922127
Gibson462696
Montgomery458192
Clinton455255
DeKalb455285
Harrison453577
Whitley415745
Huntington415582
Steuben410660
Miami405573
Jasper401155
Knox388391
Putnam385062
Wabash369083
Adams352956
Ripley351271
Jefferson341886
White339654
Daviess3090100
Wells303581
Greene293485
Decatur292593
Fayette286364
Posey281735
Scott280058
LaGrange277572
Clay273348
Washington254037
Randolph247783
Jennings239449
Spencer238731
Fountain235250
Starke229859
Owen222659
Sullivan221343
Fulton208345
Jay202932
Carroll197322
Orange191156
Perry189739
Vermillion180844
Rush177527
Tipton172747
Franklin171935
Parke155216
Pike141734
Blackford138032
Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109715
Brown106043
Crawford105616
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8348
Union73610
Ohio58111
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1123964

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1304331493
Cuyahoga1172542263
Hamilton824421261
Montgomery535421062
Summit489021014
Lucas43747834
Butler40000614
Stark33837939
Lorain26029510
Warren24919312
Mahoning22710613
Lake21472396
Clermont20391261
Delaware19143138
Licking16863227
Trumbull16801492
Fairfield16793207
Medina15861276
Greene15528254
Clark14352308
Portage13432218
Wood13343201
Allen12049245
Richland11740213
Miami11019228
Wayne9258228
Columbiana9204236
Muskingum9133137
Pickaway8750123
Tuscarawas8718255
Marion8710140
Erie8135166
Ashtabula7281179
Hancock7048135
Ross7024165
Geauga6962153
Scioto6701108
Belmont6222179
Lawrence5947104
Union590949
Jefferson5725162
Huron5638122
Sandusky5488130
Darke5444131
Seneca5377128
Washington5371111
Athens526960
Auglaize507487
Mercer491185
Shelby482797
Knox4614113
Madison447566
Ashland444898
Defiance438799
Fulton436375
Putnam4354104
Crawford4114111
Brown409662
Preble3949107
Logan392179
Clinton390766
Ottawa375881
Highland366068
Williams356678
Champaign349660
Guernsey330554
Jackson321354
Perry298850
Morrow294743
Fayette289150
Hardin279365
Henry277167
Coshocton272961
Holmes2725102
Van Wert252265
Adams249858
Gallia249850
Pike244737
Wyandot235257
Hocking222963
Carroll201249
Paulding179942
Meigs151240
Monroe137945
Noble137739
Harrison115238
Morgan111624
Vinton87317
Unassigned04
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