Jessie ----
by on May 16, 2018
If these people came into our country legally, through the proper channels, they wouldn't be separated, would they? Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration's practice of separating children from parents when the family is being prosecuted for entering the U.S. illegally, telling a Senate committee Tuesday that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens "in the United States every day."
Nielson, who has been the agency head since December 2017, came under attack by Democratic senators days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said a "zero tolerance" policy toward people entering the country illegally could lead to more families being split up while parents are prosecuted.
Nielson got into a heated discussion with Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California. Nielson said that her department was not taking children from parents as a way to deter illegal immigration. Rather, Nielsen said, if a person crosses the border illegally: "We will refer you for prosecution. You've broken U.S. law."
Harris asked what this policy meant for a 4 year old, whose parents had been arrested. Nielson fired back, "What we'll be doing is prosecuting parents who've broken the law, just as we do every day in the United States of America."
She said that those children are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services within 48 hours. That department then finds people for the children to stay with while the parents are in custody.
Nielsen told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that her agency and HHS have procedures aimed at making sure the people caring for the children are not criminals.
Meanwhile, the DHS says it would refer all arrests for illegal entry to federal prosecutors, backing up Sessions' policy, announced last month, to expand criminal prosecutions of people with few or no previous offenses. A conviction for illegal entry carries a maximum penalty of six months in custody for first-time crossers — although they most often serve far less time — and two years for repeat offenses.
Through October to April, nearly 1/4 of those Border Patrol arrests on the Mexican border was someone who came in a family. That means any large increase in prosecutions will likely cause parents to be separated from their children while they face charges and do time in jail.
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