DHS secretary defends separating families at the border

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday defended an agency policy that will result in more families b...

Posted: May 16, 2018 7:12 AM
Updated: May 16, 2018 7:12 AM

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday defended an agency policy that will result in more families being separated at the border, saying, under a barrage of questions at a Senate hearing, that similar separations happen in the US "every day."

But Nielsen also agreed with senators that more must be done to protect the children who either come to the US without their parents or are separated from them.

Nielsen was testifying Tuesday at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about what happens to immigrant children who end up in the custody of DHS, who -- by law -- transfers such minors to the custody of Health and Human Services within two days.

"Once you start taking these children, please, I don't think any record should reflect that somehow, you are confident or anybody is confident that they're being placed in a safe and secure environment," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the committee.

Nielsen said the department has recently instituted a policy that it will refer everyone caught crossing the border illegally for prosecution, even if they are claiming they deserve asylum or have small children. Any parents who are prosecuted as a result will be separated from their children in the process.

Nielsen said similar things happen in the criminal courts in the US "every day."

"Our policy is if you break the law, we will prosecute you," Nielsen said. "You have an option to go to a port of entry and not illegally cross into our country."

In the past, DHS has used discretion on using the federal courts for families instead of letting the case play out solely in immigration court. Immigration advocates have said migrants may not be savvy enough to understand the ports of entry system, and have raised concerns that asylum seekers are being turned away when they get there, though DHS maintains it follows the law.

The Trump administration last month testified it lost track of 20% -- or nearly 1,500 children -- of the undocumented minors that had been in its custody over a three-month period at the end of 2017.

"We are begging you, if in fact this is going to be the outcome, where we're separating children, in some cases infants, from their parents, we need to know where these kids are," said North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. "What you're doing to children when you take them away from their parents is the most trauma impactful thing you can do to a child. So let's be good people and good Americans as it relates to how we treat children."

Nielsen repeatedly agreed that while she plans to pursue the prosecutions policy, she intends to work with HHS to make sure the children are protected.

"I just want to say, I couldn't agree with your concerns more, period," Nielsen said. "We owe more to these children to protect them. So I'm saying I agree, we've taken steps and we will continue to strengthen what our partners do to protect these children."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604406

Reported Deaths: 7629
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1249281777
Ramsey52501896
Dakota46829470
Anoka42767458
Washington27423291
Stearns22555224
St. Louis18138313
Scott17550135
Wright16374149
Olmsted13397102
Sherburne1201695
Carver1067248
Clay826092
Rice8200110
Blue Earth762544
Crow Wing681794
Kandiyohi667985
Chisago619852
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475481
Mower470633
Winona461351
Itasca459463
Isanti439964
McLeod430561
Morrison424862
Beltrami407861
Nobles407650
Steele397916
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363853
Carlton352856
Freeborn346933
Pine335023
Nicollet331245
Mille Lacs311954
Brown307840
Le Sueur297326
Cass286132
Todd285633
Meeker263342
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211221
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196641
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176539
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena163323
Fillmore157410
Faribault154719
Chippewa154038
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138937
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95417
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48393
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371050

Reported Deaths: 6051
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58259640
Linn21218339
Scott20307248
Black Hawk16139312
Woodbury15238230
Johnson1461985
Dubuque13509211
Dallas1128899
Pottawattamie11225174
Story1071448
Warren583891
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554093
Sioux517474
Webster515794
Muscatine4882106
Marshall486676
Des Moines467472
Wapello4338122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth403181
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288461
Carroll286952
Boone268634
Crawford268440
Benton259855
Washington257251
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232651
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama211971
Delaware211143
Winneshiek198635
Page194522
Buchanan193833
Cedar192423
Hardin187444
Fayette186643
Wright186040
Hamilton181951
Harrison180073
Clayton171157
Butler166335
Madison164619
Mills163824
Floyd163442
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152952
Hancock150334
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137333
Emmet135841
Jefferson133435
Shelby131537
Sac130920
Union130035
Louisa129849
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124817
Franklin123523
Guthrie123332
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113623
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96732
Monroe96431
Unassigned9560
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7618
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Ringgold56424
Van Buren56418
Wayne54423
Audubon53411
Adams3444
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