Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, started her first hearing before the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, focused on last year’s family-separation, with the same dehumanizing rhetoric she spewed last year in defense of the anti-immigrant, President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.
In her opening remarks, Nielsen was quick to discredit human beings with tried and true racist slurs, “We have tens of thousands of illegal aliens arriving at our doorstep every month.” She later called children in federal custody “U.A.C.s,” short for “unaccompanied minors”, sterilizing the irreparable trauma of severing families. But her worst defense came during heated exchanges with committee members about the cages used to house detained children.
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) likened the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities to dog kennels.
“Does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside?” Watson Coleman asked.
“Yes … it’s larger, it has facilities, it provides room to sit, to stand, to lay down —”, responded Nielsen.
“So does my dog’s cage,” Watson Coleman insisted
This “no feeling, no compassion, no empathy” stance by the secretary, as Representative Nanette Barragán (D-CA) described, should come as no surprise. After all, this is the same person who vehemently defended then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when he announced in April, 2018, a policy which would enforce the criminal prosecution of all adults crossing the border without authorization (including asylum seekers) and as a result, the displacement of more than 2,000 children. Many who will never be reunited with their parents because there was never thought given on how to track them. In a ruling last summer, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw summed up best the Trump administration’s negligent actions: “The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”
Last month, the Justice Department revealed that more than 4,500 allegations of sexual abuse of immigrant children by staff members at government run and sponsored detention facilities were reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, including an increase in complaints during President Trump’s separation of families policy. “Are the actions of the administration producing government-sanctioned child abuse?,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, (D-CT) asked at a hearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee investigating the treatment of children by the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), which provide contracts for many for-profit private prison contractors.
Will anyone in the Trump administration be held responsible?
Certainly, Secretary Nielsen should be held accountable for the physical and psychological pain these children are enduring. The despicable result of the heartless policy would have been easily predicted had anyone in the Trump administration treated people escaping terror as human beings instead of as “illegals” and “aliens”. There’s certainly no contrition from Nielsen or anyone from the Trump team, who appear to think that the lesson learned here is not that they had gone too far in separating families but, instead they need to be smarter the next time around. Such arrogance is commonplace for a president hell-bent on targeting immigrant families with failing hard-line policies, ignoring his government’s own research showing that it has had no meaningful effect on migration patterns.
Similarly to the fake national state of emergency, in order to get the funds to build an unnecessary, ineffective border wall, the “zero tolerance policy” of separating innocent children from their parents continues the President’s politics of fear campaign against the most vulnerable targets, immigrants.
Bulldozing through Nielsen’s pile of b–, er, I mean misinformation at this week’s hearing, Representative Al Green (D-TX) spoke truth: “There are those who believe that we already have too many people of color in this country,” Green said. “And these—one of whom happens to be the President of the United States of America—would institute policies that will prevent people of color from coming to this country. White babies would not be treated the way these babies of color are being treated, Madam Secretary. This is about color.”