House chairman blasts Nielsen's tenure as a 'disaster from the start'

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump MORE (D-Miss.) on Sunday called Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities MORE's tenure as Homeland Security secretary a "disaster," moments after President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE announced she was leaving her post.

"Hampered by misstep after misstep, Nielsen's tenure at the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] was a disaster from the start," Thompson said in a statement. "It is clearer now than ever that the Trump Administration's border security and immigration policies - that she enacted and helped craft - have been an abysmal failure and have helped create the humanitarian crisis at the border." 

"It is truly unfortunate that Nielsen refused to take responsibility for her actions and was simply unable to lead and stand up to the President for his misguided, wall obsessed anti-immigrant agenda," he continued. 

Trump on Sunday abruptly announced via Twitter that Nielsen was leaving her position as the top official at Homeland Security. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is set to replace Nielsen as acting DHS secretary, Trump said. 

Nielsen, who took over as head of the agency in 2017, helped lead the Trump administration's sprawling efforts with regard to immigration enforcement and disaster relief, among other things. 

She gained increased scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers over her role in the administration's "zero tolerance" policy that led to thousand of separations of migrant families along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump signed an executive order in 2018 to end the practice. 

But Thompson cautioned against making Nielsen a "scapegoat for the situation at the border."

"Let me be clear, President Trump is to blame for making the situation at the border worse," he said. "His terrible and cruel policies have broken families apart and have caused chaos in our immigration system. This is now self-evident."