Many months after widespread outrage pressured President Donald Trump to end his policy of separating families detained at the border, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen still won’t admit that such a policy existed in the first place, or—even more astonishingly—that migrant children have ever been placed in cages.
Testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday, Nielsen continued to deny any existence of an actual policy requiring that migrant children be separated from their parents while in border patrol custody.
During her testimony, she faced off with New York Rep. Kathleen Rice and committee chairman Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson several times, denying the semantics of what exactly the Trump administration did, and continues to do, to families.
In one exchange, Rep. Thompson asked Nielsen if the government is continuing to use cages in facilities to house children, to which she denied that the cages inside facilities are cages at all.
“I’ve seen the cages, I just want you to admit that cages exist,” Thompson told Nielsen.
“Sir, they’re not cages. They’re areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they’re being processed,” Nielsen said.
“No, no, no,” Thompson said, adding, “I saw the...fences that were made as cages, and you did too! All you have to do is admit it. If it’s a bad policy, then change it, but don’t mislead the committee.”
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman also grilled Nielsen on the subject of cages.
“Does it differ from the cages that you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside?” she asked.
“Yes. It’s larger, it has facilities, it provides room to sit, to stand—” Nielsen said.
“So did my dog’s cage,” Watson Coleman replied.