NBC: Trump Cabinet Officials Voted In 2018 Meeting To Separate Migrant Children
NBC News reported Thursday that 11 of President Trump’s most senior officials were summoned to the White House Situation Room “where they were asked, by a show-of-hands vote, to decide the fate of thousands of migrant parents and their children, according to two officials who were there.”
- White House senior adviser Stephen Miller led the meeting, the two officials said, adding that the was angry about what he perceived as defiance from then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on the administration’s immigration policy.
- Nearly a month before, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions “had launched the Trump administration's ‘zero tolerance’ policy, announcing that every immigrant who crossed the U.S. border illegally would be prosecuted, including parents with small children.”
- However, Miller reportedly was furious that “U.S. border agents had not begun separating parents from their children to put the plan into action.”
- Documents obtained by NBC News show that “Sessions, Nielsen, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and newly installed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo” were among those invited to the meeting.
Nielsen told those at the meeting that there were simply not enough resources at DHS, nor at the other agencies that would be involved, to be able to separate parents, prosecute them for crossing the border and return them to their children in a timely manner, according to the two officials who were present. Without a swift process, the children would enter into the custody of Health and Human Services, which was already operating at near capacity.
- Two former officials said Nielsen repeatedly warned in the weeks leading up to the meeting that “the process could get messy and children could get lost in an already clogged system.”
- But “Miller saw the separation of families not as an unfortunate byproduct, but as a tool to deter more immigration,” and according to three former officials, he “had devised plans that would have separated even more children.”
Miller, with the support of Sessions, advocated for separating all immigrant families, even those going through civil court proceedings, the former officials said.
While "zero tolerance" ultimately separated nearly 3,000 children from their parents, what Miller proposed would have separated an additional 25,000, including those who legally presented themselves at a port of entry seeking asylum, according to Customs and Border Protection data from May and June 2018.
- That plan ultimately did not come to fruition because DHS officials argued it would bring the U.S. immigration system to a grinding halt.
- The two officials present at the meeting said “Miller accused anyone opposing zero tolerance of being a lawbreaker and un-American.”
- "If we don't enforce this, it is the end of our country as we know it," he reportedly said.
Frustrated, Miller accused Nielsen of stalling and then demanded a show of hands. Who was in favor of moving forward, he asked?
A sea of hands went up. Nielsen kept hers down. It was clear she had been outvoted, according to the officials.
- Officials expected to attend the meeting, according to the invitation list NBC News obtained, were “Sessions, Nielsen, Miller, Pompeo, Azar, Under Secretary of Defense John Rood, then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, White House deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell, then-White House counsel Don McGahn, and Marc Short, who was then director of legislative affairs and is now chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.”
Asked about the show-of-hands vote, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said, "This is absolutely not true and did not happen."