BREAKING NEWS Cal OES positions extra firefighting resources in Tehama and Colusa counties Full Story
BREAKING NEWS Latest from PG&E on potential PSPS power outages, possibly starting Sunday morning Full Story
SEVERE WX : Freeze Warning View Alerts

5 ways Kirstjen Nielsen's press conference on family separation was a total disaster

Faced with a burgeoning political, policy and human rights crisis on the country's southern border, the White House t...

Posted: Jun 19, 2018 11:34 AM
Updated: Jun 19, 2018 11:34 AM

Faced with a burgeoning political, policy and human rights crisis on the country's southern border, the White House turned to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to quiet the firestorm.

It didn't work. At all.

Nielsen, a protege of White House chief of staff John Kelly and a hardliner on immigration along the lines of President Donald Trump, tried and failed -- badly -- to explain why the forced separation of families trying to enter the country illegally was, well, not the Trump administration's fault.

There was a lot wrong with what Nielsen said -- and how she said it. Here are five things (and you can see the full transcript here):

1. She offered a technical response to a deeply emotional issue

From the start, Nielsen was all facts and figures -- all aimed at making the case that family unit arrivals, particularly from Central America, have soared in recent years. (She's right; they have.) But this is not a purely numbers issue. It's an emotional one too. It's about seeing little kids taken from their parents and wondering how your son or daughter would react in that situation. Hearing the cries of small children desperate to find someone -- anyone -- who can take them to a relative. This issue isn't just about dry policy-making. It's about people too. And Nielsen never even nodded to that fact.

2. She kept saying only Congress could fix it

Nope! To be clear: If Trump wanted to stop the "zero-tolerance" policy that had led to the rapid increase in children being separated from their families, he could. He could simply make clear to DHS officials that they should not refer every single person who tries to enter the country illegally for prosecution.

What is Nielsen talking about then? She is using the current family separation crisis as a way to argue that Democrats need to give Trump what he wants on funding for the border wall. So yes, Congress could address the issue of family separation as part of a broader bill dealing with financing for border security measures.

But, Trump could also simply call off the "zero-tolerance" policy.

3. She kept talking about how the administration had no choice but to enforce the law

On its face, this argument makes perfect sense. How can we have a country if we don't have laws and if we don't enforce those laws? "Our policy at DHS is to do what we're sworn to do, which is to enforce the law," Nielsen said.

But discretion in how laws are enforced is essential in all sorts of areas. If you are going 57 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, you are technically breaking the law and should be penalized. But very few cops pull people over for going two miles an hour over the speed limit. There are a million other examples where the law says one thing but it is enforced in a way that doesn't follow the letter of the law.

The idea that Nielsen, DHS and the broader Trump administration has no choice but to separate these families is ludicrous.

4. She feigned ignorance about the photos of children in cages

Here's Nielsen's full response when asked about the pictures:

"I have -- I have not seen something that came out today but I have been to detention centers and, again, I would reference you to our standards and I would reference you to the care provided not just by the Department of Homeland Security, but by the Department of Health and Human Services when they get to H.H.S."

I mean, come on. She hasn't seen any of those photos? Has she spent the last 96 hours on a neighboring planet?

5. She blamed the families for creating a false narrative

After Nielsen claimed, repeatedly, that she had not seen the widely circulated photos of children being kept in cages, she then said that the photos were being selectively chosen to tell only one side of the story.

Here's her quote:

"I think that they reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives. The narratives we don't see are the narratives of the crime, of the opioids, of the smugglers, of who are people killed by gang members, of American children who are recruited and then when they lose the drugs they're tased and beaten."

I don't think that's why people are posting photos, Secretary Nielsen.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 898799

Reported Deaths: 17305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2968216974
Riverside657571279
San Bernardino617261070
Orange580101440
San Diego53928867
Kern33669416
Fresno30471436
Sacramento25094482
Santa Clara23881388
Alameda23133456
San Joaquin21528488
Contra Costa18413240
Stanislaus17509396
Tulare17425284
Ventura14124162
Imperial12700336
San Francisco12032140
Monterey1128487
San Mateo11002159
Santa Barbara9715120
Merced9439154
Sonoma9163134
Kings820183
Solano728674
Marin7045128
Madera498174
San Luis Obispo412132
Placer408857
Yolo314458
Butte304652
Santa Cruz275325
Napa192815
Shasta183930
Sutter183712
San Benito143215
El Dorado13084
Yuba129310
Mendocino112121
Tehama8528
Lassen7641
Lake67915
Glenn6523
Nevada6038
Humboldt5619
Colusa5496
Calaveras33917
Amador31716
Tuolumne2624
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1880
Del Norte1781
Mono1762
Mariposa782
Plumas630
Modoc290
Trinity260
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Oroville
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 62°
Paradise
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 61°
Chester
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 34°
Red Bluff
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Willows
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 61°
Fire danger will be extreme Sunday-Monday as the biggest dry wind event of the season takes shape. A widespread freeze in the Sierra-Cascades as low as single-digit values possible Sunday night. Mild & sunny weather after Tuesday.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events