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Senate Confirms Trump's Pick for Homeland Security Secretary

06 December 2017

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen to be secretary of Homeland Security, permanently filling the vacancy created when President Donald Trump selected retired Gen. John Kelly to be his chief of staff.

"Ms. Nielsen will be charged with leading the department at a critical time", he said.

Nielsen also will be the only DHS secretary who has previously worked at the department. DHS said arrests of illegal immigrants were up 40 percent in the first nine months of the Trump administration, while border crossings plummeted based on tougher enforcement.

Kirstjen Nielsen is now an aide to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who served as Trump's first homeland secretary.

Nielsen was confirmed by a 62-37 vote the Associated Press reported.

Democrats complained that Nielsen lacks the experience needed to run a major agency with 240,000 employees.

Nielsen's "work in and around the department since its creation, as well as her knowledge of cybersecurity, risk management and critical infrastructure, should serve her well in confronting the daunting threats to our homeland", said Sen.

At her confirmation hearing in November, Nielsen maintained she would continue to operate DHS the way Kelly had, including parting with Trump's campaign promise on the proposed border wall.

Elaine Duke, a civil servant and the DHS deputy secretary, had been serving as acting secretary since Kelly's departure for the White House in July. Several administration officials say Duke has informed the White House she plans to resign once Nielsen takes over.

Last month, a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Nielsen after she used a private consultant who represents clients with millions of dollars in DHS contracts to help her navigate the confirmation process. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. During the George W. Bush administration, she served as special assistant to the president for homeland security and senior director for prevention, preparedness and response on the White House Homeland Security Council.

The decision came three weeks after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Nielsen's nomination and almost two months after President Donald Trump selected her for the DHS post.

On other topics, Nielsen said she agreed with Kelly that a U.S. -Mexico border wall is unlikely to be a physical barrier from "sea to shining sea".