Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said during an interview this week that she has no regrets about enforcing the Trump administration policy that led to thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents.
Nielsen said the memo she signed in April 2018 endorsing the Justice Department’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy did not endorse separating families. “It said we were going to enforce the law,” she insisted.
When it was pointed out that there is no federal law mandating the separation of families, Nielsen said her department merely enforced existing immigration law.
“There’s a federal law that says it’s illegal to cross between ports of entry,” she said. Nielsen went on to explain that children cannot be detained alongside parents who are arrested for illegal crossings. Therefore, she continued, they had to be removed from their parents.
“The decision was to enforce the law, not to separate families,” she insisted again.
But at issue was the Justice Department’s new policy that all illegal border crossings would be prosecuted, the interviewer noted, which meant the Trump administration would be required to separate all families who crossed the border together.
Asked if she regrets her decision to sign off on that policy change, Nielsen said no.
“I don’t regret enforcing the law,” she said, “because I took an oath to do that.”
What does Nielsen regret? “What I do wish had worked a lot better is that the coordination and information flow were simply insufficient for that number of people coming,” she said.
“What I regret is we haven’t solved [the issue of illegal border crossings],” Nielsen said in conclusion. “And what I regret is that that information flow and coordination to quickly reunite the families was clearly not in place."