The president lashed out at other Cabinet members at the White House meeting as well, but the source said Trump's harshest comments were directed at Nielsen.
When White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the meeting, she responded simply, "the president is committed to fixing our broken immigration system and our porous borders". Nielsen took the wide-reaching criticism of the administration's failures in this area personally, reportedly telling associates that if Trump was unhappy with her performance, she would leave. According to the Times, Mr. Trump berated Nielsen in front of the entire cabinet on Wednesday.
The secretary, he added, was "hard at work" Thursday "on the President's security-focused agenda and supporting the men and women of @DHSgov".
A recent target of the president has been a migrant caravan traveling from South America to the USA border.
Nielsen in a statement on Thursday, said she shared Trump's frustration that "active Loop Holes and the lack of Allied actions have prevented this government out of fully procuring the border and shielding the American folks".
"And now Kelly says to our own John Roberts - good reporting - 'I wanted to call her to make sure she wasn't going to quit.' So I guess the cover story didn't hold very long", he added. In early April, he repeatedly expressed frustration with Nielsen that her department was not doing enough to close loopholes that were allowing people to flood into the country illegally, according to one official familiar with those discussions.
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Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton posted on Twitter that the report is not accurate and Nielsen was not close to resigning. "She feels like she's doing the best she can and doing a good job on immigration, but she also has to follow the law", this person said.
During a rally in Elkhart, Indiana, Thursday evening, Trump complained, "We have the worst immigration laws in the history of mankind".
Trump's anger about immigration has grown in recent weeks, according to several officials. During his first year in office, he had regularly extolled the continued decline in border crossings, which had fallen to the lowest level in decades. "Border security is the most basic and necessary responsibility of a sovereign nation".
"We should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time and find a way for them to be on a path to citizenship", Kelly, one of President Donald Trump's top aides, said in an interview. A conviction for illegal entry carries a maximum penalty of six months in custody for first-time crossers, though they usually do far less time, and two years for repeat offenses.
But Mexico refused to pay for the wall, and despite Trump's efforts to limit undocumented immigration, the rate of attempted border crossings may have risen - estimates show that in April, US Border Patrol agents apprehended almost 40,000 people in March, or a 200% increase from 2017.