Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” border policy and called out critics for acting “cowardly” by not changing the law.
“If an American were to commit a crime,” that person “would go to jail and be separated from their family,” Nielsen said at a White House press briefing on Monday. “This is not a controversial idea.”
Nielsen fielded intense questions about the controversial family separation policy during the press briefing which followed an opening statement by the DHS secretary calling on Congress to act on legislation to change the law.
“The children are not being used as a pawn,” Nielsen said. “We are trying to protect the children, which is why I’m asking Congress to act.”
“We are a country of compassion. We are a country of heart,” she added. “We must fix the system so that those who truly need asylum can in fact receive it.”
“How is this not child abuse for these innocent children who are, indeed, being separated from their parents?” CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny asked her.
“We now care for them,” Nielsen responded, noting that the “vast majority” of the children being held at the border are unaccompanied minors.
“We have high standards. We give them meals. We give them education. We give them medical care. There’s videos, there’s TVs,” she continued. “That would be my answer to that question.”
Nielsen doubled down on the administration’s policies, while explaining procedures that are in place to keep the children safe who are separated from supposed family members crossing the border illegally.
.@SecNielsen: “DHS is not separating families legitimately seeking asylum at ports of entry.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 18, 2018
“DHS is not separating families legitimately seeking asylum at ports of entry,” she asserted.
.@SecNielsen: “This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border. We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking, and other criminal actions while enforcing our immigration laws” pic.twitter.com/dfNzlBqP6K
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) June 18, 2018
Nielsen also defended border patrol agents in a speech at a law enforcement conference earlier on Monday.
“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job. This administration has a simple message,” Nielsen said.
“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” says Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on separating families at the border. “This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.” https://t.co/NdC1STntVi pic.twitter.com/Be3EMqHlWG
— CNN (@CNN) June 18, 2018
“It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of. Don’t believe the press,” she explained. “They are very well taken care of. You know this, as many of you have detention facilities of your own. We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country. We provide food, medical, education and all needs that the child requests.”
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