Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, possibly in response to a callout from GOP senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins today, tweeted out a demonstrably false statement about the Trump administration’s family separation policy this evening: that it does not exist.
This is not a new line for Nielsen, as she parroted it last month at a hearing where Senate Democrats grilled her on family separation. As the conservative Washington Examiner wrote last month in its writeup of the hearing, Nielsen said that she believes that family separation is just “incidental” to the administration’s fascist treatment of migrants rather than part of the ramifications of it.
That is wrong. Here is what Nielsen’s own agency told NBC two days ago:
Here is what Nielsen’s subordinate, retiring ICE director Thomas Homan—a man who has had his own issues with the truth—told PBS last month:
“Apparently these people don’t understand what exactly is happening,” said Homan, who is retiring next month.
Homan said it’s “unfortunate, it’s sad” when children in the U.S. are separated from parents charged with crimes, including for entering the country illegally. But he noted there were logistical challenges in keeping families in those situations together. “A child can’t go to U.S. Marshals’ custody with the parents being charged with the crime of entering the country illegally,” he said.
Here is what Department of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar said at a Senate hearing last month:
“We can’t have children with parents who are in incarceration, and so then they’re given to me. If one presents at an actual border crossing and presents a case to come into this country, one is not arrested and one’s children are not separated from them.”
(This was wrong, by the way: as ThinkProgress pointed out, asylum seekers are also being arrested and separated from their children at the border.)
Here is what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the speech where he giddily announced the family separation policy last month:
If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.
Here is Sessions justifying that policy using a Biblical verse, a verse which was also cited by pro-slavery forces in the mid-nineteenth century as an argument against abolition:
Here is President Donald Trump tweeting multiple times about family separation, not denying that it exists but rather blaming it on Democrats:
Here is Jeff Sessions also acknowledging that the policy exists, but blaming it on immigrant families:
If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.
They are maintained in a very safe environment not by the law enforcement team at Homeland Security, but put with Health and Human Services. And they are kept close by, and if the person pleads guilty, they would be deported promptly, and they can take their children with them. And, but we do, the Homeland Security can only keep these children for 72 hours before they go to Health and Human Services.
And even before Sessions announced that the new policy was official, parents were allegedly being separated from their kids at the border, a practice that a federal judge called “brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency”:
Ms. L explained that she wanted to apply for asylum and passed a crucial interview with an asylum officer. She was then taken and held in a detention center in the San Diego area.
Less than a week after arriving at the border, her daughter, called S.S. in court documents, was forcibly taken from her and brought to a detention facility in Chicago for minors who are unaccompanied, the lawsuit states.
“When S.S. was taken away from her mother, she was screaming and crying, pleading with guards not to take her away from her mother. That was the last time Ms. L saw her daughter,” the lawsuit reads.
Kirstjen Nielsen is 100 percent full of shit. Family separation is absolutely a part of the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policy, and other officials in the administration have already admitted as such. Maybe we can stop falling for the story that Nielsen is some brave voice against the horrors of the Trump administration until she actually publicly objects to them—or at least until she acknowledges that they exist.
No matter what people in power want you to believe—and trust that despite the Trump administration’s martyr complex, they absolutely are in power—the consequences of policy decisions become part of that policy, and especially so when the consequences are known ahead of time and ignored.