Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced questioning from Congress today about immigration policies enacted under the Trump administration.
Following a report this week that a 7-year-old migrant girl died shortly after coming onto the custody of the Customs and Border patrol, House members wanted details on if this has happened before.
Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline grilled the secretary about just how many deaths there have been.
“As you sit here today, you do not know how many human beings have died while in the in the custody of the department that you lead and in preparation for today’s hearing you didn’t ascertain that number and you don’t know it today?” Cicilline questioned.
“I don’t have an exact figure for you,” Nielsen responded.
Cicilline pressed on, asking if the secretary had at least a “rough idea” on the number.
“I’m talking about people who have died in your custody!” Cicilline demanded. “You don’t have the number?”
Nielsen simply replied that she would get back with the exact figure.
Watch the video below:
Rep. Cicilline: You do not know how many people have died in DHS custody?
DHS Sec. Nielsen: "I don't have an exact figure"
Cicilline: "I'm talking about people who have died in your custody. You don't have the number?"
Nielsen: "I will get back to you with the number." pic.twitter.com/SxEmRe4CM2
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 20, 2018
Other Congress members were frustrated with Nielsen’s lack of knowledge on the issue at the hearing. Rep. Hank Johnson also asked Nielsen for the figure on the number of deaths within her department; Nielsen responded the same way she did to Cicilline.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tweeted out their dismay. “That number should be 0.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA): How many children 17 years old or younger have died in DHS, ICE or CBP custody since you took office?
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: I will get back you.
That number should be 0. pic.twitter.com/U8s8bDygYl
— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) December 20, 2018
Nielsen was further questioned about the zero-tolerance family separation policy that resulted in the separation of about 2,600 migrant children from their parents, according to NBC News.
“Shame on everybody that separates children and allows them to stay at the other side of the border fearing death, fearing hunger, fearing sickness,” said. Rep. Luis Gutierrez during the hearing. “Shame on us for wearing our badge of Christianity during Christmas for allowing the secretary to come here and lie.”