DHS warns of 'heightened threat' against employees amid immigration fallout

DHS warns of 'heightened threat' against employees amid immigration fallout
© Greg Nash

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned its employees of heightened security threats amid outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that has led to the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents. 

Deputy DHS Secretary Claire Grady said in a memo to employees on Saturday that the department has received an increased number of threats against employees. 

"Unfortunately, there are those who misconstrue your work in a negative way or seek to disrupt your work to advance outside agendas. As a result, sometimes our employees face threats," Grady wrote in an email obtained by The Hill. The email was first reported by Government Executive.  

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“In recent days, DHS has determined there may be a heightened threat against DHS employees in response to U.S. government actions surrounding immigration,” Grady added.

The memo encourages employees to contact law enforcement if they feel threatened, to remove their agency badges while in public and to be aware of what they post on social media platforms. 

DHS has been at the forefront of enforcing the "zero tolerance" policy, which was enacted by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsA better way to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons Trump admin erases key environmental enforcement tool DOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda MORE in April.

A DHS official said Monday that Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role MORE has been the main focus of the threats, though other employees have also been targeted. Nielsen and other employees have had personal information shared online, the official said.

Protesters also confronted Nielsen last week while she dined at a Mexican restaurant.

During a White House press briefing last week, Nielsen defended the policy despite it leading to the separation of families, and declared "Congress alone can fix it."

Two days later, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE signed an executive order unilaterally halting the separations.

The heightened security threat comes amid a renewed debate over civil discourse in the wake of the family separation policy. A Virginia restaurant owner refused to serve White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over the weekend, citing her support of Trump's policies.

Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersNadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision Bank watchdogs approve rule to loosen ban on risky Wall Street trades F-bombs away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever MORE (D-Calif.) has faced growing criticism after she encouraged supporters to harass Trump administration officials in public places.