Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen resigns amid Trump anger over border

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (R) looks on at a signing ceremony for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S. November 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle and Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversaw President Donald Trump’s bitterly contested immigration policies during her tumultuous 16-month tenure, resigned on Sunday amid a surge in the number of migrants at the border with Mexico.

A senior administration official said Trump asked for Nielsen’s resignation and she gave it.

Trump, who has recently expressed growing anger about the situation at the border, said on Twitter: “Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service.”

In another tweet, Trump said Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, would become acting DHS secretary.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a visit U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton/File Photo

In a tweet late Sunday, Nielsen said that she would stay on until Wednesday.

“I have agreed to stay on as Secretary through Wednesday, April 10th to assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key DHS missions are not impacted,” she said.

Nielsen’s departure was first reported by CBS News.

Nielsen, 46, had been DHS secretary since December 2017. Her departure had been repeatedly rumored over the past year, particularly after a wave of anger over the administration’s 2018 family separation policy at the border with Mexico and most recently as U.S. border officials estimated that 100,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border in March, the highest level in a decade.

Another senior administration official said Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, after a blowup with Nielsen late last year, also recommended to Trump that she should go.

Trump has made a clampdown on illegal immigration a centerpiece of his two-year-old presidency, leading chants of “Build that wall” at his rallies as he has sought to cut back on the number of newcomers entering the United States without proper documentation.

Many of the migrants picked up last month were Central Americans seeking U.S. asylum.

Trump was so frustrated about the increase that he announced he would cut off U.S. aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He also threatened to close the border with Mexico, although he later backed off that proposal with a threat to impose tariffs on auto imports.

In her resignation letter, Nielsen asked for more from Congress and the courts, which have opposed such Trump administration initiatives as his effort to limit immigration from Muslim nations and the border wall.

“I hope that the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse,” she wrote to Trump.

Trump also took aim at Congress in another tweet later on Sunday, saying: “Country is FULL,” and saying Democrats in Congress must “fix loopholes” and repeating his threats to close the border or impose tariffs if Mexico does not do more.

Nielsen’s resignation was the latest high-profile departure from the Trump administration and leaves just four women in his Cabinet. Among others, Trump currently lacks a permanent secretary of defense or chief of staff.

LIGHTNING ROD

Nielsen’s departure was announced two days after the Republican president abruptly said on Friday he was dumping his nominee to be the top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ronald Vitiello, saying he wanted someone “tougher.”

ICE is under the jurisdiction of DHS, which was formed following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Repeatedly subjected to tough questioning by Democrats at congressional hearings, Nielsen became a lightning rod for criticism of Trump’s policies. She was confronted by protesters last year at a Mexican restaurant in Washington.

Last year, Nielsen came under increasing pressure by critics to step aside after the Trump administration adopted the policy of separating migrant children from their parents as part of its “zero tolerance” approach intended to deter families from leaving home in the hope of entering the United States.

After criticism as pictures of children in cages were spread across the world, Trump signed an executive order in June ending family separations and requiring that families be held together in federal custody while the adults awaited prosecution for illegally crossing the border.

But the government reported that at least 245 children were taken from their families between that time and the first months of 2019.

Trump insists that the arrival of immigrants across the southern U.S. border constitutes a national emergency so important that he sidestepped Congress’ refusal to provide him with billions of dollars he requested to build the border wall.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said Nielsen’s tenure at DHS “was a disaster from the start.”

He said in a statement, however, that she should not serve as a scapegoat, blasting Trump for “terrible and cruel policies.” Noting that the department now has neither a permanent secretary nor deputy secretary, Thompson called on the administration to work with Congress “in good faith.”

Before she was nominated as secretary, Nielsen worked as a deputy to former Marine General John Kelly, who headed DHS before becoming White House chief of staff.

Kelly resigned as chief of staff on Jan. 2 amid reports of a strained relationship with Trump.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch and Rich McKay; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney)

White House says Trump undecided on deal to avert another shutdown

President Donald Trump has not yet decided whether to back a deal hammered out by congressional negotiators to avert another partial government shutdown, the White House said on Tuesday, putting the future of the agreement that contains funds for U.S.-Mexican border security but not his promised wall in doubt.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has not yet decided whether to back a deal hammered out by congressional negotiators to avert another partial government shutdown, the White House said on Tuesday, putting the future of the agreement that contains funds for U.S.-Mexican border security but not his promised wall in doubt.

Democratic and Republican negotiators reached the tentative deal on Monday night on border security provisions and money to keep several government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security funded through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Temporary funding for about a quarter of the government is due to expire on Friday.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will get this through,” Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who chairs the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, told CNN. “We cannot shut the government down.”

Asked if the Republican president had signaled support for the bipartisan deal, Lowey did not answer directly, but said it had the backing of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, who control the chamber.

Trump, who triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown with his December demand for $5.7 billion to help build the border wall, has not yet made up his mind on the deal, said a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“No decision has been made,” the official said.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby on Monday said the House-Senate committee set up last month at the end of the previous shutdown had an agreement in principle to pay for border security programs.

A final agreement is expected by late on Wednesday. The funding legislation would need to be passed in the House and Senate and signed by Trump.

Trump last month agreed to end the shutdown without getting money for a wall, which is opposed by Democrats. The shutdown roiled financial markets and left hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors without pay.

Trump’s long-promised wall was a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. He had said it would be paid for by Mexico and not by U.S. taxpayers.

Congressional sources said the agreement includes $1.37 billion for new fencing along 55 miles (90 km) of the southern border but only with currently used designs, such as “steel bollard” fencing. It will also address immigrant detention beds.

Trump will have to decide whether to sign the measure into law given its backing from congressional Republicans, or side with conservative commentators who have the president’s ear such as Sean Hannity of Fox News, who late on Monday called it a “garbage compromise.” Democrats oppose the wall but support border security efforts.

Trump has threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress does not give him wall money.

“Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said at a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, shortly after the deal was reached. “Maybe progress has been made – maybe not.”

Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas considering a 2020 White House run, accused Trump at a counter-rally nearby of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso.

Without new funds, federal agencies would again have to suspend some activities this weekend, ranging from maintenance of national parks to the publishing of important economic data.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland in Washington and Roberta Rampton in El Paso, Texas; Editing by Will Dunham)

Explainer: How U.S. shutdown over border wall fight might play out

Jocelyn Lofstrom, whose husband is a federal worker, prepares a sign prior to a protest of the partial U.S government shutdown on day 33 of of the shutdown in the Hart Senate office building in Washington, U.S., January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the 34th day of a partial U.S. government shutdown, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats remain at odds over his demand for funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.

Trump has refused to sign any legislation to fund an array of government agencies, including the departments of agriculture, commerce, justice, interior and homeland security, unless it includes $5.7 billion for his long-promised wall.

The Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have rejected the wall as ineffective and immoral and want the government to be reopened before any further talks about border security.

As long as the stalemate continues, 800,000 federal employees are on furlough or working without pay.

The following are some possible ways the standoff might end:

GLIMMERS OF COMPROMISE

The Senate is due to vote on two measures on Thursday: Trump’s proposal to fund government agencies through Sept. 30 while paying for a wall and also providing some temporary protections for some undocumented immigrants (“Dreamers”), and a Democratic plan to reopen the government through Feb. 8 while border security negotiations continue.

Both measures are expected to be defeated. If they are, that could clear the way for a new round of negotiations between Congress and Trump.

The fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is willing to allow the votes suggests he may be trying to persuade lawmakers of both parties to compromise. The speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, told reporters on Thursday that she was willing to meet face-to-face with Trump.

POSSIBLE WAYS TO BREAK THE IMPASSE

* Congress and Trump find a way to temporarily re-open the government under a promise of serious border security negotiations over the next month or so.

* Democrats agree to more than the $1.3 billion in border security funding they have been backing, but less than the $5.7 billion Trump wants. If Trump faces a public opinion backlash or there are signs Republican lawmakers may be abandoning him, he might have to settle for less.

* Democrats and Republicans agree on $5.7 billion in border security funding this year, but the language allows both sides to claim victory by including different ways of securing the border. Democrats insist the money will not be used to build a wall; Trump and his fellow Republicans tout the money that will include funding for various types of barriers and other tools to discourage illegal immigration and drugs.

* A “grand bargain” emerges that reopens the government, bolsters border security and also provides protections from deportation for “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Other changes to immigration law also could be included. Such a deal would fund federal programs through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, add funds for an array of border security tools without imposing tough new constraints on immigration that Trump has previously attempted.

TRUMP DECLARES ‘NATIONAL EMERGENCY’

While the possibility that this might happen has faded recently, Trump could revive his threat to declare a national emergency at any time. His rationale would be that illegal immigration jeopardizes U.S. security and he is empowered to act by redirecting existing federal funds to build the wall. Defense Department accounts could be targeted for use on the border.

Under the Constitution, Congress holds the power to make decisions about spending U.S. taxpayers’ money and using presidential powers to move funding around is almost certain to face legal challenges.

Taking this step would probably lead to prompt enactment of legislation reopening the government under the belief that Trump would sign it into law, without the $5.7 billion.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Sonya Hepinstall)

House Democrats to test Republicans on Trump’s wall demand

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for a House Democratic party caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the 19th day of a partial U.S. government shutdown, Democrats were set on Wednesday to test Republicans’ resolve in backing President Donald Trump’s drive to build a wall on the border with Mexico, which has sparked an impasse over agency funding.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who took control of the chamber last week, plan to advance a bill to immediately reopen the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies that have been partially shut down since Dec. 22.

Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service – at a time when it should be gearing up to issue tax refunds to millions of Americans – and voting to keep it partially shuttered.

In a countermove, the Trump administration said on Tuesday that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News on Wednesday that Trump was still considering a declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Congress and redirect government funds toward the wall.

The Republican president’s push for a massive barrier on the border has dominated the Washington debate and sparked a political blame game as both Trump and Democrats remain dug in.

In a nationally televised address on Tuesday night, Trump asked: “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” referring to murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell opened the Senate on Wednesday with an attack on Democrats for not supporting Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the wall.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s speech was a rehash of spurious arguments and misleading statistics.

“The president continues to fearmonger and he makes up the facts,” Schumer said.

DEMOCRATIC TACTICS

Later in the week, Pelosi plans to force votes that one-by-one provide the money to operate departments ranging from Homeland Security and Justice to State, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor.

By using a Democratic majority to ram those bills through the House, Pelosi is hoping enough Senate Republicans back her up and abandon Trump’s wall gambit.

The political maneuvering comes amid a rising public backlash over the suspension of some government activities that has resulted in the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Other “essential” employees are being required to report to work, but without pay for the time being.

As House Democrats plow ahead, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to attend a weekly closed lunch meeting of Senate Republicans.

They are expected to urge them to hold firm on his wall demands, even as some are publicly warning their patience is wearing thin.

Later in the day, Trump is scheduled to host bipartisan congressional leaders to see if they can break the deadlock. On Thursday, Trump travels to the border to highlight an immigration “crisis” that his base of conservative supporters wants him to address.

With tempers running high over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion just for this year to fund wall construction, there are doubts Pelosi’s plan will succeed in forcing the Senate to act.

McConnell has not budged from his hard line of refusing to bring up any government funding bill that does not have Trump’s backing even as a few moderate members of his caucus have called for an end to the standoff.

The funding fight stems from Congress’ inability to complete work by a Sept. 30, 2018, deadline on funding all government agencies. It did, however, appropriate money for about 75 percent of the government by that deadline – mainly military and health-related programs.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Alistair Bell)

U.S. to send some migrants back to Mexico as immigration cases proceed: Nielsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will soon begin returning individuals who illegally cross the U.S. southern border back to Mexico to wait there while their immigration cases proceed, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Thursday.

The policy change is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten U.S. immigration laws to let in fewer immigrants seeking to enter both legally and illegally.

“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” Nielsen said in a statement. “Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.”

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Immigration agents arrest 160 workers at Texas trailer plant

The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – U.S. agents have arrested 160 employees of a trailer manufacturing plant in north Texas who they said violated immigration laws and were working illegally in the United States.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said late Tuesday its agents raided a plant owned by Load Trail in Sumner, about 110 miles (180 km) northeast of Dallas.

“Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage,” Katrina Berger, an agent for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, said in a statement.

No criminal charges have been filed, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said in an email. He declined to say if any charges would be brought against the company, citing the ongoing investigation.

Load Trail described itself on its website earlier this month as a 22-year-old family-owned business whose staff peaked at more than 500 employees in 2007 and that produces a variety of trailers and parts. The company did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

ICE said it was interviewing all of the 160 suspects it rounded up to determine whether any of them qualify for “humanitarian release” such as being as sole care-givers of children. The agency did not provide the nationalities of the suspects.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Migrant ‘caravan’ that angers Trump nears U.S.-Mexico border

Central American migrants, moving in a caravan through Mexico, rest at a temporary shelter, in Hermosillo, Sonora state, Mexico April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

By Edgard Garrido

HERMOSILLO, Mexico (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central American migrants traveling in a “caravan” were in limbo in the northern Mexican city of Hermosillo on Monday on the final stretch of a journey to the United States where President Donald Trump ordered officials to repel them.

About 600 men, women and children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras had been waiting on Monday in Hermosillo, Sonora to board a train or take buses for the remaining 432 miles miles to the border with California.

Traveling together for safety, their numbers were down from a peak of about 1,500 people since they began their journey on Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala almost a month ago, as smaller groups broke away.

Many women and children in the group were planning to seek asylum in the United States after they reach Tijuana, said Rodrigo Abeja, a coordinator from immigrant rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras that has been organizing similar caravans for several years.

Central American migrants, moving in a caravan through Mexico, receive shoes at a temporary shelter, in Hermosillo, Sonora state, Mexico April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Central American migrants, moving in a caravan through Mexico, receive shoes at a temporary shelter, in Hermosillo, Sonora state, Mexico April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Moving from town to town, the impoverished and bedraggled travelers became a lightning rod for U.S.-Mexico relations after Trump launched a succession of tweets in early April, telling Mexican authorities to stop them.

On Monday he again lashed out, threatening that failure to stop the caravan could stall the already tense renegotiation of NAFTA.

“I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “It’s a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so Naive! WALL”

Following Trump’s Tweets, the group was considering applying for asylum status in Mexico, a Reuters witness traveling with them said.

Trump’s concern with the caravan coincides with recent U.S. border patrol data showing a sharp rise in the number of immigrants found illegally crossing the border, a setback after immigration from Central America evaporated in the months following his election.

While it is not clear what will happen when the group arrives at the border, or if it will disperse before it gets there, there are signs the U.S. is preparing legal defenses. Following Trump’s messages, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had ordered officials to ensure that sufficient prosecutors and immigration judges were available at the border “to adjudicate any cases that may arise from this ‘caravan.'”

Some migrants told Reuters they would stay in Mexico. Others said they would find other ways to cross. At least 200 were likely to claim asylum if they made it over the border, according to migrants and caravan organizers.

Marie Vincent, a U.S.-based immigration attorney who met the caravan on a stop along the way, said many of the immigrants had a strong case for U.S. asylum either because they faced political persecution, lethal threats from gangs, or violence because of gender or sexual identity.

Central American migrants, moving in a caravan through Mexico, gesture during a demonstration against the U.S President Donald Trump's immigration policies, in Hermosillo, Sonora state, Mexico April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Central American migrants, moving in a caravan through Mexico, gesture during a demonstration against the U.S President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, in Hermosillo, Sonora state, Mexico April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Vincent said one of those with a persuasive case was the survivor of a flawed witness protection program in Honduras who had been “stabbed and shot at more times than he could count.”

Faced with another death threat, he escaped to Guatemala and then to Mexico from a hospital bed with the tubes still stuck in his body — one of them hanging from his stomach, she said.

Some of the group had been dissuaded from seeking asylum by warnings about detention conditions they might endure in the United States, she said.

Although Honduras and El Salvador rank among countries with the highest homicide rates in the world, rejection rates for asylum claims from those countries are very steep.

(Additional reporting and writing by Delphine Schrank in Mexico City; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Scott Malone)

Trump to order National Guard to protect border with Mexico

FILE PHOTO - Members of the U.S Army National Guard monitor the Oculus transportation hub ahead of the U.S presidential election in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a proclamation on Wednesday ordering the deployment of the National Guard to help protect the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said.

Troops may be heading to the border as early as Wednesday night, Nielsen said, saying that the National Guard would support U.S. Custom and Border Protection but would not be involved in enforcement.

Nielsen spoke at a White House news briefing a day after Trump sharpened his anti-immigration rhetoric by saying he wanted to deploy U.S. military forces until his promised border wall is built.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a press briefing on border security at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a press briefing on border security at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“The president has directed that the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security work together with our governors to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border to assist the Border Patrol,” Nielsen said. “The president will be signing a proclamation to that effect today.”

She said the administration had drafted legislation and would be asking Congress to provide the legal authority and resources to address “this crisis at our borders.”

She did not give the number of the troops to be deployed or the cost of the operation.

Nielsen said that despite steps taken by the administration, the levels of drug smuggling, illegal immigration and dangerous gang activity across the border were unacceptable.

Trump met with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Nielsen and other officials to discuss border issues on Tuesday.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, lamenting what he called “horrible” U.S. laws that left the southern border poorly protected.

On Wednesday, Trump said in a tweet: “Our Border Laws are very weak while those of Mexico andCanada are very strong. Congress must change these Obama era, and other, laws NOW!”

(This version of the story was refiled to add dropped word “but” in paragraph two)

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Eric Beech and Leslie Adler)

U.S. to announce new ‘security upgrades’ to refugee program

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2018.

By Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New “security upgrades” to the U.S. refugee admissions program will help block criminals and other suspicious persons from entering the United States from high-risk nations, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Monday.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, speaking at a public event in Washington, did not give further details and said the upgrades would be announced on Monday.

The new measures would protect the refugee program from “being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters,” she said. “These changes will not only improve security but importantly they will help us better assess legitimate refugees fleeing persecution.”

Since taking office last year, President Donald Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country and paused the refugee program for four months. He has also instituted stricter vetting requirements and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.

State Department data show that the number of people admitted to the United States as refugees has plummeted under the Trump administration’s new restrictions.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Paul Simao)

Trump to order mental health aid to prevent suicide among military veterans

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (L) after signing the Veterans Affairs Choice and Quality Employment Act at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S. August 12, 2017.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday was set to sign an executive order that will direct government departments to try to prevent suicide among military veterans by treating mental health problems before they become more serious.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters on a conference call that Trump wants to address an alarming trend, that of 20 veterans a day taking their own life.

“That is just an unacceptable number and we are focused on doing everything we can to try to prevent these veteran suicides,” Shulkin said.

Trump’s order will direct the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to develop a plan in 60 days to provide access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for uniformed service members in the first year following military service.

The new order will cost about $200 million year to implement, money that will be diverted from the agencies’ current budget, a senior administration official said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by David Gregorio)