Kirstjen Nielsen just doesn’t give a shit. Testifying before a House committee on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary expressed no remorse for the recent deaths of two migrant children under federal immigration custody, or the images of separated children being held in cages. Rather, Nielsen’s retort was that these cages weren’t cages at all.
“Sir, they’re not cages!” she claimed. “We’re not going to go through the semantics,” Homeland Security Committee chair Bennie Thompson responded. “I saw the cyclone fences that were made as cages, and you did too. All you have to do is admit it. If it’s a bad policy, then change it. But don’t mislead the committee. Do not mislead the committee.”
But she did, and in numerous topics. Nielsen falsely claimed to Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) that asylum seekers at the southern border “are not turned away. They are brought in. They are allowed to make their claim.” This is a lie, and not just because it’s been widely reported, but because Barragán has been there to see it. “Either you’re lying to this committee or you don’t know what’s happening at the border,” Barragán replied. “I have been there firsthand, and I have seen it twice.”
One instance involved the family that was teargassed at the border in a now-infamous photo last year. Border officials claimed Barragán and Rep. Jimmy Gomez that the port of entry didn’t have the capacity to accept the asylum seekers. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. “After a 20+ hour wait and pressure from the members of Congress, all of the group—including Maria Meza and her children—were brought into the facility, processed, and allowed to present their asylum claims.” Thousands continue to wait in Mexico because ports of entry will only accept a few people a day.
Grilled by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) on the lifelong trauma family separation can inflict on kids, “Nielsen said she was only aware of the psychological harm that the perilous journey north from Central America could have on migrant children,” CBS News reported. “She added that she was not familiar with the term ‘toxic stress.’” But the fact is that government officials did know how horrifically children could be damaged, and when that information was relayed to superiors, they did nothing.
Kids stolen from families under the policy—which Nielsen yet again falsely claimed doesn’t exist—continue to remain in U.S. custody, more than 200 days past a judge’s deadline. The question is, what happens next. Nielsen’s other claim that parents weren’t deported without a chance to take their kids with them is “a lie,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) said. “Lying to Congress under oath is a felony. The last person who did that is going to prison.” Barragán summed up Nielsen’s performance: “You have no feeling, no compassion, no empathy here.”
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