Homeland Security chief slams 'irresponsible' reports on separation of migrant families

Posted June 19, 2018

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is defending the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy of separating children from parents who have crossed the U.S. -Mexico border illegally, tweeting a series of messages on Sunday that disputed the existence of the policy.

Nielsen joins the growing chorus of administration officials who have been put on the defensive over the policy amid political pressure to abandon it altogether and find a permanent fix to the country's immigration problems.

"We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family", she said in a speech to the National Sheriff's Association in New Orleans.

On Fox & Friends Monday, the tweets were presented as an attempt to "clarify" the policy.

"We do not want to separate children from their parents".

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon with two Republican senators who have the hard task this week of balancing the president's requests for funding for more immigration enforcement and a border wall with the realities of needing Democratic support to pass spending bills.

The letter is the latest but far from the only plea from congressional Republicans for President Trump and his administration to end this policy, which by the Department of Homeland Security's own numbers say have separated 2,000 families in recent weeks. According to Kathryn Shepherd, a lawyer for the Immigration Justice campaign at the American Immigration Council, these restrictions make it "nearly impossible" to be granted asylum. "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law". "If you smuggle aliens. we will prosecute you".

The DHS secretary added, "if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry".

Compounding Nielsen's false statement were reports that children separated at the border were being held in an old warehouse in south Texas, behind metal fencing that resembled cages.

Almost 2,000 minors were separated from their parents or adult guardians who illegally crossed into the United States over a recent 6-week period, officials said Friday, June 15, as debate raged over how to end the deeply controversial practice.

President Trump on Twitter Monday echoed that point. "It's a simple choice", she said.

Nielsen's portion of the briefing was a 20-minute bloodbath, in which reporters pummeled her with questions about the policy that she defended over the weekend, before denying its existence.

The crisis has centered primarily around a Trump administration policy to detain undocumented child migrants in facilities separate from their parents.

"As (GOP Rep. Steve Scalise) said, it is an issue that every one of the last four administration has faced".