- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kirstjen M. Nielsen, President Trump’s pick to be the next Homeland Security secretary, said Wednesday she would look at reopening the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty to allow people who missed the renewal deadline, and promised not to let their information be shared with deportation officers.

Ms. Nielsen also ruled out the need for a border wall “from sea to shining sea,” but struggled with answers to many other thorny immigration questions, including the cost of the wall, what should happen to Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), and what crimes should make illegal immigrants targets for deportation.

“I would defer to you,” she told Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat, who pressed her on how she viewed those controversial policy decisions she will oversee should she be confirmed.

In testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ms. Nielsen, former chief of staff at Homeland Security to then-Secretary John F. Kelly before following him over to the White House, said she had a lot to study up on if she’s confirmed to lead the 240,000-person department.

She said whether the country needs a domestic-terrorism law is “a good question.”

She said whether the country should ban online content such as manuals that terrorists have followed to conduct attacks deserves “a serious discussion.”

“I do think we have to have that conversation and then work with those who provide and enable that information on the internet to find a way to identify it and remove it should we determine that it’s not appropriate,” she said.

And she said the line between reasonable suspicion and racial profiling in immigration enforcement is “a good question” that she didn’t have firm an answer for yet.

“I would have to understand what the states would argue the difference would be,” she said.

As Homeland Security secretary she would oversee a sprawling agency with hundreds of thousands of employees that cover everything from airport security and the Coast Guard to disaster relief and the country’s immigration system.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, said she seemed unqualified for such a massive job.

“I worry a lot about your leadership and your experience as a leader, and your lack of leadership,” Mr. Carper told her.

Ms. Nielsen replied that she’s been a manager, and said she learned about the importance of accountability and empowering employees.

“Many of the leadership skills that have brought me to this place are scalable,” she said.

She said she has a particular concern about cybersecurity, and said when she went to vote in Virginia on Tuesday she began asking questions about ballot security.

Asked about her plans in that area, she said she would change the name of the department’s cybersecurity division from the National Protection and Programs Directorate.

“I would very much appreciate an opportunity to work with you to change the name. It truly does confuse stakeholders,” she said.

On immigration — perhaps the most controversial issue in the portfolio she would handle — she didn’t mention any specific plans, but said the key to enforcement is to get better metrics.

She also said deterrence is important to keeping people from making the journey north in the first place.

“We will enforce our laws. It’s vital we do so. We will do so,” she said. “Should I be confirmed, I intend to do so.”

But she said she would order agents not to target “Dreamers” or other low-priority illegal immigrants in their enforcement action. And when pressed by Ms. Harris she said she would consider allowing Dreamers to renew their protections under the 2012 DACA program, saying she needed to see if anyone was cut off unfairly.

Her nomination has deeply split Republicans. She worked in the White House for President George W. Bush and his allies have sprung to her defense, but Trump-friendly conservatives said she was a danger to the president’s agenda.

“I don’t like conspiracy theories on attractive women using sex for promotions, but other than being very pretty, Trump’s DHS nominee Kirstjen Nielsen is Chuck Schumer,” Ann Coulter tweeted.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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