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On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the House Homeland Security Committee. Remarkably, she used her appearance to deny the existence and details of the Trump Administration family separation policy. Evidently, she doesn’t care that the American people witnessed children in cages, families ripped apart by official policy, and parents deported without their children. Her argument to Congress was, essentially, believe my lies not your eyes.
Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice said: “Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s congressional testimony was stunning. Yesterday was an alarming combination of outright lies, willful ignorance and jaw-dropping incompetence. She must resign. At the very least, Congress should refer her to the Department of Justice for investigation into her systematic false statements.
As the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt helpfully recapped:
Here are just some of the things wrong with @SecNielsen testimony today on family separation:
1. Contrary to her testimony, Children WERE taken away even when parent sought asylum legally.
2. Secretary Nielsen cites 2,000 separated children, but our case documented 2,800 kids taken away. Now an internal report says there may be thousands more on top of the 2800.
3. Unbelievably, Sec. Nielsen compared our government ripping little kids away from parents to cases where a parent makes the agonizing choice to send a teenager to the US to escape violence.
4. Sec. Nielsen said whenever a parent goes to jail for any crime they are separated from kids. Here’s the difference: when a parent is released, the government doesn’t just keep their child for months on end for no reason. That’s exactly what happened to our clients.
5. Finally, there WAS family separation policy and practice. It DID cause toxic stress and irreparable damage to these children, some of whom were just babies.
The Daily Beast’s Scott Bixby also summarizes some of the propaganda and blatant falsehoods from Nielsen yesterday, in a piece entitled, “Kirstjen Nielsen Says ‘We Don’t Use Cages for Children’—After U.S. Put Migrant Kids in Cages”
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen denied that the cages used to hold undocumented immigrant children at border detention facilities are, in fact, cages, during an aggressive exchange in congressional testimony on Wednesday.
Nielsen, who was in her third hour of aggressive questioning on border security matters by Democrats on the House Committee on Homeland Security, repeatedly refused to answer Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) on whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection was “still putting children in cages” at detention facilities on the U.S. southern border. Nielsen instead described the cages as “areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection” of children in USCBP detention.
“Sir, they’re not cages. We don’t use cages for children,” Nielsen said. “To my knowledge, CBP never put a child in cages.”
“I just want you to admit that the cages exist!” Thompson said incredulously. “I saw them and you did too—all you have to do is admit it. Don’t mislead the committee. Do not mislead the committee.”
Images of migrant children sleeping under space blankets within the chain-link cages, reminiscent of dog kennels, helped ignite global outrage over the Trump administration’s policy of separating undocumented immigrants from their children at the U.S. southern border in late spring of last year. Children housed in the facilities often slept on thin pads over concrete floors, with limited access to washrooms and sinks.
Nielsen’s assertions that the facilities used to detain children at the border—which are, for the record, cages—followed another exchange with a Democratic lawmaker, where the secretary refused to admit that the Trump administration’s family separation policy was enacted to deter undocumented immigrants from seeking entry into the United States, before appearing to admit exactly that.
“Did you initiate the separation of families for the express purpose of deterring families from coming to the United States?” asked Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).
“No, I did not,” said Nielsen, before adding that “the whole purpose of that was to increase consequences for those who choose to break the law… if there is no consequences, we do not see the instances of the crime decreasing. So what we did was we increased the number of prosecutions.”
….“There’s so much misunderstanding” about the family separation policy, Nielsen said in response to an intense line of questioning from Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL), a former nurse, about the health effects of separation on children. “There is no policy of family separation.”