BREAKING NEWS Butte County Public Health announces third coronavirus death Full Story

DHS secretary defends separating families at the border

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday defended an agency policy that will result in more families b...

Posted: May 16, 2018 5:12 AM
Updated: May 16, 2018 5:12 AM

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday defended an agency policy that will result in more families being separated at the border, saying, under a barrage of questions at a Senate hearing, that similar separations happen in the US "every day."

But Nielsen also agreed with senators that more must be done to protect the children who either come to the US without their parents or are separated from them.

Nielsen was testifying Tuesday at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about what happens to immigrant children who end up in the custody of DHS, who -- by law -- transfers such minors to the custody of Health and Human Services within two days.

"Once you start taking these children, please, I don't think any record should reflect that somehow, you are confident or anybody is confident that they're being placed in a safe and secure environment," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the committee.

Nielsen said the department has recently instituted a policy that it will refer everyone caught crossing the border illegally for prosecution, even if they are claiming they deserve asylum or have small children. Any parents who are prosecuted as a result will be separated from their children in the process.

Nielsen said similar things happen in the criminal courts in the US "every day."

"Our policy is if you break the law, we will prosecute you," Nielsen said. "You have an option to go to a port of entry and not illegally cross into our country."

In the past, DHS has used discretion on using the federal courts for families instead of letting the case play out solely in immigration court. Immigration advocates have said migrants may not be savvy enough to understand the ports of entry system, and have raised concerns that asylum seekers are being turned away when they get there, though DHS maintains it follows the law.

The Trump administration last month testified it lost track of 20% -- or nearly 1,500 children -- of the undocumented minors that had been in its custody over a three-month period at the end of 2017.

"We are begging you, if in fact this is going to be the outcome, where we're separating children, in some cases infants, from their parents, we need to know where these kids are," said North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. "What you're doing to children when you take them away from their parents is the most trauma impactful thing you can do to a child. So let's be good people and good Americans as it relates to how we treat children."

Nielsen repeatedly agreed that while she plans to pursue the prosecutions policy, she intends to work with HHS to make sure the children are protected.

"I just want to say, I couldn't agree with your concerns more, period," Nielsen said. "We owe more to these children to protect them. So I'm saying I agree, we've taken steps and we will continue to strengthen what our partners do to protect these children."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 238681

Reported Deaths: 6169
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1056653405
Riverside18041463
San Diego14623370
Orange14413345
San Bernardino12746258
Imperial652397
Alameda6156136
Fresno528975
Kern476876
Santa Clara4572158
Tulare4323128
San Joaquin391454
San Francisco364850
Sacramento339768
San Mateo3311108
Contra Costa324877
Ventura309646
Santa Barbara289629
Kings250434
Marin239419
Stanislaus231044
Monterey169115
Solano140225
Sonoma11857
Merced113111
Placer72411
San Luis Obispo6422
Yolo55524
Madera5415
Santa Cruz3993
Napa3334
San Benito2392
Lassen2330
El Dorado1980
Sutter1973
Butte1892
Humboldt1334
Shasta1294
Nevada1171
Glenn1150
Yuba941
Mendocino850
Tehama821
Lake790
Colusa590
Del Norte511
Mono421
Calaveras400
Inyo321
Siskiyou310
Tuolumne300
Mariposa271
Amador240
Plumas100
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 90°
Oroville
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 91°
Paradise
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 90°
Chester
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 80°
Red Bluff
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 93°
Willows
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 90°
We'll have sunny to mostly sunny skies and warmer temperatures today. A slight chance for showers will pop up in Lassen County this evening. Temperatures will be a little cooler on Friday, but will heat back up for your 4th of July weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events