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Yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the nomination of acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ronald Vitiello to become ICE’s permanent director.
Senate Democrats on the committee, such as Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Gary Peters (D-MI), used the hearing to highlight a host of Vitiello’s troubling views and associations, including with SPLC-designated hate group FAIR, and to spotlight Vitiello’s leadership role and continued support for family separations – all of which should be disqualifying.
Notably, Vitiello’s performance yesterday made clear that his disqualifying issues are not limited to the past. Instead, Vitiello continued to defend family separations and wouldn’t even rule out re-starting the separation of families in the future. Meanwhile, he appeared callous to the consensus medical opinion that child separations inflict lifelong trauma, while laying blame over family separation on the administration’s failure to anticipate “public outcry,” instead of the actual policy horrors themselves.
As Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post described:
Ronald D. Vitiello, a veteran law enforcement official tapped by President Trump to run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, faced criticism at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday for refusing to rule out the possibility that the Trump administration could resort again to separating migrant parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
… He would not address lawmakers’ questions seeking clarity on how long he believed migrant children should be detained or whether the separation from their families caused them psychological harm. “We’ll get less people bringing their children,” he added. “It is an option.”
…“We have the capacity in the United States of America to control our borders without harming children,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) told Vitiello. “That is something that I am quite confident that we can do.”
Vitiello acknowledged during the hearing that the administration failed to be “ready for the public outcry that occurred.” “We never contemplated on having the systems work backwards,” he said. “Nobody in the discussions that I was involved in were contemplating that these people would be separated forever.”
According to Pili Tobar, Managing Director of America’s Voice, “Ronald Vitiello’s views, associations, embrace and role in the separation of thousands of families and jailing of children should have already disqualified him from any Senate-approved position. But as he demonstrated during his hearing yesterday, his problems aren’t limited to the past. Instead, he continues to defend family separation, point fingers in the wrong direction, and keeps dismissing and minimizing the related horrors and trauma that he and his colleagues inflicted on thousands of children. We thank the Senate Democrats on the committee for highlighting the numerous reasons why Vitiello’s nomination should be voted down and we call on Senators to vote against Vitiello’s nomination when the time comes.”
Role and defense of Summer 2018 family separation horrors: Vitiello was one of the implementers, enablers, and defenders of the family separation policy – as he’s been ICE acting director since June 2018. Vitiello also has minimized and dismissed the horrors of family separation, purporting that “only 2,500 people were affected by that situation.”
Consorting with FAIR and anti-immigrant movement: Vitiello once called Democrats the “NeoKlanist Party” and participated in an event hosted by FAIR, a designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On the show, Vitiello defended the policy of separating families at the border and racistly characterized immigrants as the bearers of crime and disease. FAIR is an anti-immigrant hate group that was founded by white nationalist John Tanton, who helped create a network of anti-immigrant organizations — many of which are also hate groups. For this year’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire”, an annual event, FAIR brought in anti-immigrant activists and far-right talk radio hosts from across the country to amplify their anti-immigrant messages. The conference also attracted a number of extremist elected and appointed officials.