Homeland Security chief on separating kids from their parents at the border: "We will not apologize"

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the policy after saying a day earlier that it didn't exist.
June 18, 2018, 3:15pm

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen once again defended the Trump administration’s enforcement of the policy that separates migrant children from their parents at the border.

Nielsen’s remarks to a sheriffs convention Monday came just a day after she denied that the department even had such a policy on Twitter. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” she tweeted Sunday.

By Monday morning, however, Nielsen appeared to shift her talking points.

“This department will no longer stand by as law enforcement is attacked for enforcing laws passed by Congress,” Nielsen said Monday at the National Sheriffs Association annual conference in New Orleans. “We will not apologize.”

No law mandates that families be separated after being apprehended crossing the border with documentation. Prior to the Trump administration’s recent change, parents were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings. Then in April, the administration announced that all adults caught would be criminally prosecuted as part of a new “zero tolerance” policy. In practice, that has meant separating thousands of kids from their parents. They’re often placed in separate facilities, sometimes without any indication of where their parents are being held.

DHS confirmed on Friday that more than 1,995 children were separated from their parents at the border in the six-weeks from April 19 to May 31 under the new policy.

Nielsen also suggested that criticizing DHS for enforcing a policy that was already on the books was “the beginning of the unraveling of democracy.” She also attacked “advocates, media, and members of Congress,” many of whom have described the policy as cruel, and assured sheriffs in the room that they had her support enforcing the policy.

“The minors are well taken care of,” Nielsen said. “Don’t believe the press.”

Cover image: Current Secretary Kirstjen Nielson testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Hart Building on Russian Interference in the 2016 election on March 21, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)