Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen has resigned

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on Sunday amid the administration's growing frustration and bitterness over the number of Central American families crossing the southern border, two people familiar with the decision said.

President Donald Trump thanked her for her work in a tweet and announced U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would be taking over as acting head of the department. McAleenan is a longtime border official who is well-respected by members of Congress and within the administration. The decision to name an immigration officer to the post reflects Trump's priority for a sprawling department founded to combat terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Though Trump aides were eyeing a staff shake-up at Homeland Security and had already withdrawn the nomination for another key immigration post, the development Sunday was unexpected.

Nielsen traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday with Trump to participate in a roundtable with border officers and local law enforcement. There she echoed Trump's comments on the situation at the border, though she ducked out of the room without explanation for some time while Trump spoke. As they toured a section of newly rebuilt barriers, Nielsen was at Trump's side, introducing him to local officials. She returned to Washington afterward on a Coast Guard Gulfstream, as Trump continued on a fundraising trip to California and Nevada.

But privately, she had grown increasingly frustrated by what she saw as a lack of support from other departments and increased meddling by Trump aides, the people said. She went into a meeting with Trump at the White House in Sunday not knowing whether she'd be fired or would resign, and she ended up resigning, they said.

There have been persistent tensions between the White House and Nielsen almost from the moment she became secretary, after her predecessor John Kelly became the White House chief of staff in 2017. Nielsen was viewed as resistant to some of the harshest immigration measures supported by the president and his aides, particularly senior adviser Stephen Miller, both around the border and on other matters like protected status for some refugees. Once Kelly left the White House last year, Nielsen's days appeared to be numbered. She had expected to be pushed out last November, but her exit never materialized. And during the government shutdown over Trump's push for funding for a border wall, Nielsen's stock inside the White House even appeared to rise.

But in recent weeks, as a new wave of migration has taxed resources along the border and as Trump sought to regain control of the issue for his 2020 re-election campaign, tensions flared anew.

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen looks on during the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the Central American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras met with U.S. leaders at the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen (2nd R) smiles Border Patrol officer Gloria Chavez (C) beside a plaque with Presidents Trump's name on it at the first completed section of Trumps 30-foot border wall in the El Centro Sector, at the US Mexico border in Calexico, California on October 26, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Kirstjen Nielsen is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. secretary of Homeland Security nominee, listens to an introduction from U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Trump�announced his nomination of Nielsen, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff�John Kelly, to succeed him as secretary of Homeland Security. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (C) and Mexico Secretary of Government Alfonso Navarrete (R) look on as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the Central American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras met with U.S. leaders at the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to his Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
REFILE - ADDING DETAIL: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (R) walks with Kirstjen Nielsen, the chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., before his departure with President Donald Trump to Yuma, Arizona, August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump smiles as he introduces his Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 08: Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Department secretary nominee, is introduced by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, left, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., during her Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on November 8, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a nomination announcement at the East Room of the White House October 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump has nominated Nielsen to be the next homeland security secretary, the position that has left vacant by Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes the hand of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen during a nomination announcement at the East Room of the White House October 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump has nominated Nielsen to be the next homeland security secretary, the position that has left vacant by Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Kirstjen Nielsen listens as US President Donald Trump nominates her as next US Secretary of Homeland Security in the East Room of the White House October 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen smiles after U.S. President Donald Trump introduced Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks in front of a newly-fortifed border wall structure Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Calexico, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
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