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 SessionsDemocrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases Unsealed documents detail Trump and Biden efforts on reporter records MORE in April.

A DHS official said Monday that Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' 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 TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix 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 WatersBipartisan bill will help level the playing field for small businesses Republicans hammer HUD chief over sluggish rental aid Key GOP lawmaker backs Powell for another term as Fed chief MORE (D-Calif.) has faced growing criticism after she encouraged supporters to harass Trump administration officials in public places.