Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy at the border on Monday, which has led to the separation of thousands of minors from their families.
“We will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do,” Nielsen said, speaking to the National Sheriffs’ Association. “Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get out of jail free cards.”
Nielsen added that the administration doesn’t have “the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are, in fact, a family,” while also noting that there has been “a staggering 315 percent increase” in undocumented immigrants “fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country.”
“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
The secretary also took a shot at the media’s coverage of the controversial policy: “It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of — don’t believe the press — they are very well taken care of.”
“If you cross the border illegally. If you make a false immigration claim, we will prosecute you. If you smuggle aliens […] we will prosecute you,” she added.
On Sunday, Nielsen addressed the situation at the border, arguing that the Trump administration doesn’t have a policy of separating families at the border.
“This misreporting by Members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive,” she tweeted. “As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.”
President Trump, however, has been blaming Democrats for the policy: “It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder [sic] Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”
The administration has faced mounting pressure to drop the controversial policy at the border, with even former members of the Trump White House calling on the president to do something about the “atrocious” procedure.
“It’s inhumane and it’s cruel, which I absolutely don’t like. I think he needs to step back, stop listening to his aides and his advisors,” Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Monday. “He’s got to step in there and end this thing because I think it’s an atrocious policy, it’s inhumane, it’s offensive to the average American […] It does not represent American values.”