Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made a round of visits to immigrant detention centers in South Texas last week, where detainees reportedly “desperately wanted to speak with Nielsen.” Instead, Nielsen and her staff reportedly avoided both detainees and reporters, which kind of makes you wonder what the point was in visiting at all.
One of the facilities the secretary visited, in Los Fresnos, houses parents whose children were taken from them under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. Many of the detainees there are women, and many desperately wanted to speak with Nielsen. Instead, they were moved to a distant soccer field, where they shouted to Nielsen for help but were too far away for her to hear them.
Reporters could not talk to Nielsen either, even though, as confirmed to The Intercept by a DHS press secretary on Monday, she toured two Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers for adults in South Texas and a shelter in Brownsville that houses young children separated from their parents. Additionally, ICE confirmed to The Intercept on Tuesday that more than 60 women were moved during the secretary’s visit, though the agency claimed the move was for the purpose of “recreation.”
The account of several of the women—which includes two women who don’t know where their sons are being held and one who is hundreds of miles away from her 6-year-old, who is “unable to speak to her during calls from the child’s shelter, because he only cries when he gets on the phone”—was markedly different, the Intercept reports.
Four women who were detained there on Friday have since communicated with The Intercept. Each recounted being told by guards that afternoon to tidy up their dormitories. They were then directed onto a soccer field bathed in glaring sun with temperatures in the high 90s. One woman heard another say she did not want to go. “But the guard said we had to, that it was an order because some important officials were coming,” the woman said.
Once on the field, the women said, they saw from a distance a group of about 10 people dressed in street clothes. Details of the group’s appearance were hard to make out, but one detainee said she saw a “tall woman with shoulder-length, blond hair.”
When the women saw Nielsen and the others, according to the Intercept, they women assumed they were important and began shouting “Ayúdenos! Help us!” No help, came, however; the women said they were kept on the field for two hours, until Nielsen and the others left.
Two of the women told the Intercept that they think they were moved to the soccer field so they would be “hidden” from Nielsen’s view. According to ICE, Nielsen did speak to some detainees in Los Fresnos.
“After coordinating with U.S. Secret Service special agents supporting DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen’s June 29 visit to the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, ICE officers briefly moved detainees from one of the dorms to the soccer field for recreation,” ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda told The Intercept. “About 62 ICE detainees were involved; Secretary Nielsen spoke to various detainees while she toured the facility.”
Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it’ll no longer disclose how many kids they have in custody who’ve been forcibly ripped from their parents. So, again, it’s worth asking: is it really any wonder that people are resorting to direct action to get the attention of government officials who have demonstrated time and again that they do not give a shit about what any of us have to say?