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Dem Congresswoman Confronts DHS Sec Nielsen on Family Separation: It Was a Policy, ‘You Should Admit It!’

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee today, and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice grilled her on the family separation policy.

Rice asked directly, “Can you confirm that there has never been a parent deported under your tenure without finding out if they want their children to go with them?”

“To the best of my knowledge, every parent was afforded that option,” Nielsen responded.

Rice then brought up this now-infamous tweet from Nielsen:

Rice brought up the zero tolerance policy announced by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and drilled down on the specifics of the policy.

“Were you aware that the zero tolerance policy would lead to minors being separated from their parents? Yes or no?” Rice asked.

“As a consequence for a parent going to jail, we in this country to not take the children to jail,” Nielsen responded.

At one point Rice told Nielsen “we all know the results of the policy,” but Nielsen responded, “It’s not a policy, it’s the law.”

Later in the hearing, Rice called her out on that:

“It was a policy announced by the attorney general of this country that families were going to be separated. That was a policy. He did not say we’re going to start enforcing a law. It was a policy by this administration that only ended when there were pictures of little kids in cages that had been ripped away from their parents. So I think it’s really important, Madam Secretary, that you talk about it and you use the right language. This was not the law, okay? This was a policy that the attorney general of this country announced was a new policy, that they were going to rip kids away from their parents. So I think it’s very important that the record reflect that.”

Nielsen responded to “clarify for the record” and said, “The AG memo that was issued directed all U.S. attorney offices along the southwest border to prosecute all adults who were referred for prosecution. That’s what it did.”

“That’s a policy!” Rice responded. “When you knew that that policy was going to result in children having to be taken away from their parents. You should admit it!”

“The consequence of any adult going to jail in this country is they’re separated from their child,” Nielsen responded. “That wasn’t the point of it, the point was to increase prosecutions for those breaking the law.”

“It was very clear what the attorney general meant,” Rice added.

Following that exchange, Rice responded to a DHS spokesperson who said she was “conflating Zero Tolerance and Family Separation”:

You can watch the video above.

[image via screengrab]

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