Facing outcry over family separations, DHS chief says ‘we will not apologize’

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from their parents.

"Don't believe the press", Nielsen said.

Nielsen spoke Monday at the National Sheriff's Association conference in New Orleans.

Nielsen said agents are not acting cruelly, but are enforcing the laws passed by Congress. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, one of the most vulnerable red-state Democrats up for re-election this year, said Sunday on Twitter that she would sign onto the bill this week and focus on the issue in her capacity as the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.

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

The administration has defended its practice of keeping the children in government care while it conducts extensive background checks on those seeking to take custody of the children, including their parents. President Trump on Monday tweeted a challenge to Democrats, saying they should back GOP immigration bills aimed at fixing "the world's worst immigration laws".

DHS "may separate a parent or legal guardian from his or her child for several reasons, including situations where DHS can not ascertain the parental relationship, when DHS determines that a child may be at risk with the presumed parent or legal guardian, or if a parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution, including for illegal entry", the website notes. 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.

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"Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children?" one reporter asked. CNN is looking into reports that these individuals are being turned away there, as well.

The Attorney General directed United States Attorneys on the Southwest Border to prosecute all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children, for 8 U.S.C. § 1325 (a), illegal entry.

But images and videos across social media as well as a plethora of well-reported stories have offered substantial evidence to the contrary, relaying stories and even showing tent cities created for undocumented children separated from their families.

"My message to members is clear: You have a chance".

The President underwrites this practice, and so does every single Republican in Congress who isn't calling for Sessions to stop prosecuting border crossing as a criminal offense.

Nielsen's in fine form here, though, hitting all the major points on the policy's behalf. At one point, NY magazine's Olivia Nuzzi played audio, published by ProPublica earlier, that recorded border patrol agents mocking weeping child migrants separated by their parents.

  • Sonia Alvarado