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."

West Lafayette
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Kokomo
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 71°
Rensselaer
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Fowler
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Williamsport
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Crawfordsville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 72°
Frankfort
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 72°
Delphi
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 71°
Monticello
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 71°
Logansport
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Another great workday for your Tuesday with sunshine
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 774097

Reported Deaths: 14012
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1064061810
Lake571801030
Allen43386701
Hamilton37585426
St. Joseph37480568
Elkhart29847471
Tippecanoe23679231
Vanderburgh23586405
Porter19665327
Johnson18990394
Hendricks18232323
Clark13691199
Madison13675348
Vigo12937256
Monroe12673178
LaPorte12617225
Delaware11207198
Howard10791237
Kosciusko9839124
Hancock8845150
Bartholomew8327157
Warrick8194157
Floyd8108183
Grant7430181
Boone7279105
Wayne7264201
Morgan6974143
Marshall6365117
Dubois6310118
Cass6121112
Noble605891
Dearborn605478
Henry5988111
Jackson520177
Shelby514098
Lawrence4999127
Gibson470997
Montgomery463592
Clinton461755
DeKalb460785
Harrison458377
Huntington426982
Whitley420045
Steuben413661
Miami409373
Jasper403457
Knox396091
Putnam388362
Wabash373184
Adams357156
Ripley353871
Jefferson349787
White341454
Daviess3102100
Wells305581
Greene297585
Decatur294093
Posey288035
Fayette287464
Scott284458
LaGrange278772
Clay277049
Washington256838
Randolph248483
Jennings242149
Spencer240231
Fountain238350
Starke231359
Owen226159
Sullivan223243
Fulton210045
Jay203732
Carroll199723
Orange193856
Perry193039
Vermillion182844
Rush178927
Tipton174348
Franklin173735
Parke157016
Pike143734
Blackford138432
Pulaski124648
Newton124136
Benton111415
Brown106643
Crawford106516
Martin92915
Warren88115
Switzerland8528
Union73710
Ohio58511
Unassigned0429

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events