DHS Secretary Says Children Who Are Detained In Cages Are Not Being Treated Inhumanely

“This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.”

People who've been taken into custody after attempting to enter the United States illegally sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, TexasU.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP

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During a White House briefing that followed days of wall-to-wall coverage of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy at the border, the US Department of Homeland Security secretary denied claims that migrant children and their parents are being treated inhumanely at the border.  

“Claiming these children and their parents are treated inhumanely is not true,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday afternoon.

Nielsen’s unexpected appearance at the daily briefing capped days of harrowing coverage of the plight of at least 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents at the US border. 

The White House delayed the briefing three times to allow for Nielsen, who attended the National Sheriffs’ Association meeting in New Orleans this morning, to answer questions. 

The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy at the border has been the focus of several dispatches from Border Patrol facilities in Texas where hundreds of migrants—many of them children—are being kept in a “series of cages created by metal fencing.” 

The crisis has centered primarily around a Trump administration policy to detain undocumented child migrants in facilities separate from their parents. Before the briefing, some reporters in attendance had been listening to audio obtained by ProPublica of 10 Central American child migrants reacting with grief and confusion after being separated from their parents at the border. 

Nielsen said she had not heard the audio recording. 

“It is not possible, as a matter of law, to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States,” she said during the briefing. “Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it.”

This statement is not accurate; DHS can release parents or families from detention at any time.

Trump administration officials have argued falsely in recent weeks that Democrats are responsible for the separation policy, in an apparent reference to Congress not passing an immigration bill that would close what the Trump administration calls loopholes that require family separation. As the president tweeted last week: 

Nielsen echoed these points during her prepared remarks. “This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border,” she said, adding that adults are investigated at the border for links to human trafficking and to see if they are biologically related to the children they are accompanying.

“We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children,” she said. 

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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