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 8:12 AM
Updated: May 16, 2018 8:12 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1007681

Reported Deaths: 16470
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1355212121
Lake664101166
Allen57993801
Hamilton46350465
St. Joseph44397615
Elkhart35949510
Vanderburgh32251480
Tippecanoe27933260
Johnson25107445
Hendricks23897359
Porter22929365
Madison18748409
Clark18557252
Vigo17479303
Monroe15263200
LaPorte15173250
Delaware15073263
Howard14748290
Kosciusko12348148
Hancock11728176
Bartholomew11639180
Warrick11292189
Floyd11108215
Wayne10986253
Grant10082220
Morgan9472176
Boone8926115
Dubois8271131
Henry8229152
Dearborn822393
Noble8031106
Marshall7939135
Cass7546121
Lawrence7457171
Shelby7189119
Jackson698289
Gibson6597115
Harrison649192
Knox6421106
Huntington6395100
DeKalb632399
Montgomery6264111
Miami593398
Putnam581278
Clinton576171
Whitley565755
Steuben562576
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Scott438974
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Clay423360
White418764
Decatur4169102
Fayette406587
Jennings387361
Posey376644
Washington359151
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Randolph3452100
Spencer340243
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Sullivan329452
Starke317171
Owen314771
Fulton312667
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Jay284645
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Perry265452
Rush262432
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Vermillion258654
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Blackford193142
Pulaski183757
Crawford159823
Newton158348
Benton150617
Brown146747
Martin138719
Switzerland135011
Warren121116
Union107016
Ohio84613
Unassigned0540

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1519304

Reported Deaths: 23955
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1642651696
Cuyahoga1464072459
Hamilton1053661431
Montgomery740661279
Summit617841111
Lucas56338917
Butler51580718
Stark466811064
Lorain35628585
Warren32836377
Mahoning30787693
Clermont28193330
Lake27063448
Delaware24208164
Licking23939294
Trumbull22885561
Fairfield22395247
Greene22350326
Medina22047313
Clark19863354
Richland18586292
Portage17978252
Wood17454224
Allen16001279
Miami15582306
Muskingum14831185
Columbiana14080274
Wayne13791271
Tuscarawas12724311
Marion11976180
Scioto11469162
Pickaway11373142
Erie10904184
Ross10586203
Lawrence9759153
Ashtabula9741204
Hancock9707155
Belmont9309209
Geauga8965157
Jefferson8567199
Huron8404143
Union819859
Washington8093144
Sandusky7827151
Athens777779
Knox7739144
Darke7689158
Seneca7372145
Ashland6967130
Auglaize679799
Shelby6530115
Brown636491
Crawford6274130
Defiance6218105
Mercer616493
Fulton602896
Highland600499
Madison594578
Guernsey593071
Logan591096
Clinton583793
Preble5720125
Putnam5335110
Williams529288
Perry518363
Champaign513173
Jackson510273
Ottawa488586
Coshocton484683
Morrow458858
Pike434367
Fayette429263
Hardin419480
Gallia418467
Adams417195
Van Wert372382
Henry365372
Holmes3642125
Hocking356782
Wyandot324662
Carroll302365
Paulding280347
Meigs265851
Monroe216254
Noble200347
Morgan194033
Harrison182146
Vinton166625
Unassigned05
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