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ANALYSIS: Get ready for Trump’s harder line on immigration

Click to play video '‘Better, faster, less expensive’: Trump touts new border wall' ‘Better, faster, less expensive’: Trump touts new border wall
WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump touted the border wall on Friday, April 5 during a visit in California, saying it was "better, faster and less expensive." – Apr 5, 2019

While serving as U.S. Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen supported the policy of forcibly separating migrant children from their parents.

During her 16-month tenure, two Guatemalan children died in the custody of the agency she oversaw.

WATCH: Kirstjen Nielsen leaving role as Homeland Security secretary, Trump announces

Click to play video 'Kirstjen Nielsen leaving role as Homeland Security Secretary, Trump announces' Kirstjen Nielsen leaving role as Homeland Security Secretary, Trump announces
Kirstjen Nielsen leaving role as Homeland Security Secretary, Trump announces – Apr 7, 2019

All of this happened while Nielsen presided over efforts to make it harder for all migrants to seek asylum in the United States.

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That was apparently not enough to satisfy her boss, President Donald Trump.

READ MORE: Despite resignation, Kirstjen Nielsen says she still supports Trump’s border policies

Nielsen’s forced resignation came two days after Trump withdrew the nomination of Ronald Vitiello to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for deporting people who are in the U.S. illegally.

Trump later admitted that he dropped Vitiello because he wants to go “in a tougher direction” on immigration.

READ MORE: ‘We’re going in a tougher direction’ — Trump withdraws ICE head nominee

Which brings us to Nielsen’s unceremonious exit.

NBC News reports that the president had been pushing Nielsen to reinstate large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border — but the secretary reportedly resisted, questioning the legality of such a move.

In fact, there have been several court rulings supporting her current position.

WATCH: Trump says San Diego ‘begging’ him for the wall

Click to play video 'Trump says San Diego ‘begging’ him for the wall' Trump says San Diego ‘begging’ him for the wall
Trump says San Diego ‘begging’ him for the wall – Apr 5, 2019

Given what has been tried and what has failed, it’s not clear what a new Homeland Security secretary or head of ICE could do that hasn’t already been done or hasn’t already been ruled illegal.

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But that has not contained Trump’s rage at the continued flow of migrants into the U.S.

READ MORE: ‘Our country is full’ — Trump says immigration system overwhelmed

“Our country is full,” said Trump as he visited the border on Friday, ending a week in which he threatened to close the border with Mexico entirely.

Days earlier, the Trump administration revealed plans to slash foreign aid to three Central American countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The move is designed as retaliation for the flow of migrants from those countries, even though the programs being cut were intended to address the violence and poverty at the heart of the migration crisis.

In fact, there’s a growing body of experts who believe Trump’s policies and rhetoric are actually making a tough situation even worse.

READ MORE: ICE arrests within America’s borders fell by nearly 5,000 at the end of last year

The more Trump threatens to close the border or get tough on immigration, the more migrants rush to cross into the U.S.

“The thought is that you should get to the United States right now before the next hammer comes down, before they start implementing family separations again or before they start closing the border,” explained Sarah Pierce, a researcher with the Migration Policy Institute.

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Successive American presidents have struggled with these same issues and have come to the understanding that policies meant to deter migration are still weaker than the forces driving people from their home countries.

But Trump finds himself unable to back down and unable to find any other path forward.

He has backed himself into a corner on immigration by building up expectations with his own base.

WATCH (March 11, 2019): White House says 2020 budget requests $8.6B for border wall

Click to play video 'White House says 2020 budget requests $8.6B for border wall' White House says 2020 budget requests $8.6B for border wall
White House says 2020 budget requests $8.6B for border wall – Mar 11, 2019

To recap: Trump has promised that he will fix the problem, he promised that Mexico would pay for a border wall that still hasn’t been built and he has painted past presidents as weak on the same issue, even though they faced a similar conundrum.

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Now, Trump faces his own frustrations and a push from the hardliners within the White House to do something — anything.

It’s just not clear what options he has left.

 

Jackson Proskow is the Washington bureau chief for Global News.

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