In this file photo taken on December 20, 2018, secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Homeland Security Oversight in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

US President Donald Trump on Sunday announced Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, a relentless defender of the administration’s controversial immigration policies, including the widely condemned practice of separating migrant children from their parents, would be leaving her position.

“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” Trump tweeted.

He added US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would become acting secretary.

Nielsen initially joined the Trump administration in January 2017 as an assistant to Trump’s first DHS secretary, John Kelly. When Kelly moved to the White House as Trump’s chief of staff in July 2017, Nielsen went with him as his deputy.

But by October she was back at DHS, this time as secretary.

In that role, she has become the face of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policy.

Nielsen’s relationship with Trump has long been said to be difficult. But despite reports he complained constantly about her performance, she remained unswervingly loyal.

Last month, she defended the president’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for his flagship project: a wall on the US-Mexico border.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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