The acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security resigned in protest after the White House tried to pressure her to expel tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants living in the United States, The Washington Post reports.
Administration officials told the Post that White House chief of staff John Kelly called Acting Secretary Elaine Duke to pressure her not to extend the residency permits for tens of thousands of Hondurans residing in the country, as she planned to do.
Duke refused Kelly’s request and was reportedly “angered by what she felt was a politically driven intrusion by Kelly and Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser, who also called her about the matter.”
The Honduran immigrants are in the United States on a form of provisional residency called Temporary Protected Status.
DHS has until Monday to announce what it will do with the 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans who were allowed to stay in the US under Temporary Protected Status after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in 1998.
Kelly complained to Duke that extending the residency permits delays “our wider strategic goal” on immigration, a White House official told The Post.
Duke has already decided to end the protected status of Nicaraguans, giving them until January 2019 to leave the country. She wanted a six-month extension for the Hondurans because she “felt she did not have enough information.” Kelly was reportedly frustrated “with Duke’s lack of decisiveness.”
About 200,000 Salvadorans and 50,000 Haitians are also nervous as the Trump administration will decide on their permits early next year.
“Trump administration officials have repeatedly cited the TPS program as an example of what they say is U.S. immigration policy gone awry, because a program designed to be temporary should not be used to grant long-term residency in the United States,” The Post’s Nick Miroff explains.
Kelly called Duke from Japan, where he was traveling with Trump, to castigate her because he was “irritated” and “didn’t want his handpicked nominee for DHS Secretary, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, to face potentially uncomfortable questions about TPS during her confirmation hearing.”
An administration official told The Post, “He was persistent, telling her he didn’t want to kick the can down the road, and that it could hurt [Nielsen’s] nomination.”
“This shouldn’t be a problem for the next secretary to deal with,” Kelly reportedly told Duke.
Duke refused to back down.
“She was angry. To get a call like that from Asia, after she’d already made the decision, was a slap in the face,” the official said.
“They put massive pressure on her,” another official added.
Duke informed Kelly that she plans to resign when Nielsen takes over even though Trump publicly asked her to remain at the department in a deputy role, like the one she was in before Kelly was moved from the department to the White House.
Nielsen, who is currently Kelly’s deputy chief of staff, is expected to be easily confirmed on Thursday.