The head of the Department of Homeland Security bashed the media Sunday for their reporting on the increasingly volatile immigration controversy, writing in a string of tweets: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen added: “This misreporting by Members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.”
She noted that no one is “breaking the law by seeking asylum at a port of entry.”
The Trump administration, which has called it “horrible” that illegal-immigrant children are sometimes separated from their parents when their parents enter criminal proceedings, has been criticized in recent weeks for increasing the prosecutions of illegal immigrants under a “zero-tolerance” policy that critics say leads to those separations.
A child illegally entering the U.S. is generally separated from adults at the border if the child is in danger, has no clear relationship to the adult, or if the adult enters criminal proceedings.
Through Twitter, Nielsen reiterated that current policies are derived from laws already in the books: “For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between ‘family’ members, or if the adult has broken a law.”
She added: “DHS takes very seriously its duty to protect minors in our temporary custody from gangs, traffickers, criminals and abuse.”
Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was denied entry at a detention center he attempted to visit in Texas after the police were called and an official told him to “please go away.” He and other Democratic politicians have visited other immigrant detention facilities successfully.