Reason Roundup

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Is Leaving Wednesday. Will Her Replacement Be Worse?: Reason Roundup

Plus: The U.K. wants to be "the safest place in the world to be online," and Mike Gravel is running for president.



An impossible job? Kirstjen Nielsen announced Sunday that on April 10, she'll be stepping down as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan will then become acting secretary of DHS.

Nielsen's resignation comes less than a year and a half after she replaced John Kelly. Kelly went on to become President Donald Trump's chief of staff, but he left that position in January. "With McAleenan's appointment, Trump now has an acting homeland security secretary, defense secretary, interior secretary and chief of staff," notes Axios.

Nielsen "has arguably been the most aggressive secretary in the department's short history in cracking down on immigration—with her legacy likely to be defined among progressives by the 'zero tolerance' prosecution policy of late spring and early summer 2018 that resulted in the separation of thousands of families at the US-Mexico border," writes immigration reporter Dara Lind. Alas:

None of it appears to have been enough for Trump.

Nielsen's resignation was preceded on Thursday night by the abrupt withdrawal of the nomination of acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Ron Vitiello to formally lead the agency, with Trump telling reporters Friday morning that he wanted to go in a "tougher direction." While it's not yet clear whether Trump requested Nielsen's resignation or not, it certainly appears as if that "tougher direction" is extending to a new DHS secretary….

[W]ith nearly 100,000 migrants apprehended by Border Patrol agents along the US-Mexico border in March, Trump is yet again ruminating angrily and obsessively over immigration, riffing in speeches about telling migrants "we're full" and "go back."

Nielsen couldn't make that happen, because no one could, because it's impossible. The US can't—even with a wall—physically prevent the entry of unauthorized immigrants onto US soil. And once on US soil, they have certain rights—including the right to request asylum.

The one silver lining here seems to be that there's not much more McAleenan, or any Nielsen replacement, can legally do.

Even during Kelly's tenure as DHS head, "the low-hanging fruit of deterrent immigration policies had been picked a long time ago," writes Lind. She continues:

US immigration law is a balance between the desire to minimize unauthorized entry into the United States and the desire to protect vulnerable people who may be fleeing harm and persecution. Both US and international law prohibit the US from refusing entry to people who are in danger of prosecution in their home countries; both US statute and court settlements offer extra due-process protections to asylum seekers, children, and families.

The policies Trump wants, and the outcomes he has promised, aren't within the power of the White House or the Department of Homeland Security.

As for Acting Secretary McAleenan's prospects: He's shown no particular signs of being better or worse than the average border hawk. He has presided over some of the worst immigration actions and abuses of the Trump administration, while refusing to endorse the very worse of Trump's rhetoric. He's "not an ideologue or fire breather," an anonymous DHS officially tells CNN.


"The safest place in the world to be online." A new internet regulation proposal backed by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May would give regulatory bodies there "unprecedented powers to issue fines and other punishments if social-media sites don't swiftly remove" offending content. British authorities are touting it as a way to ensure the U.K. is "the safest place in the world to be online." Right now, the proposal "comes in the form of a white paper that eventually will yield new legislation," reports The Washington Post:

Early details shared Sunday proposed that lawmakers set up a new, independent regulator tasked to ensure companies "take responsibility for the safety of their users." That oversight—either through a new agency or part of an existing one—would be funded by tech companies, potentially through a new tax.

The agency's mandate would be vast, from policing large social-media platforms such as Facebook to smaller web sites' forums or comment sections. Much of its work would focus on content that could be harmful to children or pose a risk to national security. But regulators ultimately could play a role in scrutinizing a broader array of online harms, the U.K. said, including content "that may not be illegal but are nonetheless highly damaging to individuals or threaten our way of life in the U.K." The document offers a litany of potential areas of concern, including hate speech, coercive behavior and underage exposure to illegal content such as dating apps that are meant for people over age 18.


Raunch-rhetoric realignment? These are words I never thought I'd type but…an interesting Matthew Yglesias thread:

More here.


Mike Gravel is officially in:


  • "A pregnant mother is facing disorderly conduct charges in Georgia for allowing her 3-year-old son to relieve himself in public," reports AP.
  • "When people ask me, how the Trump era is adjusting my political views, my answer is simple: It's making me more libertarian," writes David French at National Review. "It's making me more concerned about the fate of the Constitution. I trust the government less, I'm more appalled at its sweeping assumptions of power, and I see more clearly what happens when its leaders—possessed with unwavering self-righteousness—believe that the ends justify the means."
  • In China, a new app called Study the Great Nation pumps out Communist propaganda all day, directly to citizens' smartphones, and awards them for reading. "Many employers now require workers to submit daily screenshots documenting how many points they have earned," says The New York Times.