DHS chief of staff suddenly quits amid two-front migrant crisis

Chief of staff to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Karen Olick, announced Monday she is resigning from her position for an undisclosed opportunity, according to Politico.

Mayorkas notified DHS officials via email that Olick “has decided to resign her position and pursue new opportunities. We are grateful to Karen for her service during the critical first nine months of the new Administration.”

Olick said cryptically in a farewell note, “Though too often underappreciated by our fellow citizens, I am continually struck by how many millions of Americans sleep in safety every night because so many at DHS do not sleep.”

Current associate director of Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Jennifer Higgins will take over for Olick until a permanent replacement can be found.

Multiple crises

Higgins has served in the federal government for 20 years as a civil servant, while Olick had been a prominent official at SKDK, the powerful Democratic strategic communications firm, before coming to DHS.

The move comes as DHS has been tasked with handling multiple migrant crises, both at the southern U.S. border and the resettlement of thousands of Afghan refugees that left the country when the Taliban captured Afghanistan in a matter of a few weeks last month.

The agency is also working on responding to Hurricane Ida, which caused massive flooding in Louisiana and Alabama, and even resulted in catastrophic damage in areas as far north as Pennsylvania.

While the reason for Olick’s departure was not provided publicly, Politico noted that there has been tension in the agency as senior political appointees have been allowed to work remotely while some career staffers have had to work in their offices to handle critical tasks.

Tension at DHS

Some career staff members have had to call the appointees into the office to review and sign critical paperwork, an anonymous official said.

“It’s impacted morale and caused tension that the political people are setting rules and the rules don’t always apply to them,” the official told Politico.

According to a DHS spokesperson, however, the agency is currently operating on “maximum telework flexibility for all” guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

With a career staffer now in the chief of staff position, perhaps changes are coming to the agency that will help to resolve their existing internal issues.

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