Trump’s DHS secretary crumbles when asked about the trauma of family separation: ‘I wasn’t familiar with the term’

Trump’s DHS secretary crumbles when asked about the trauma of family separation: ‘I wasn’t familiar with the term’
Image via Screengrab

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday crumbled under a line of questioning about the traumatic effects of family separation on children, before being chided by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) for “editorializing” in her response.

The questions came from Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) who requested yes or no answers from Nielsen about her knowledge about the impact family separations could have on children.

“When you officially began family separation in spring 2018, were you aware of research showing it causes trauma that can do both immediate and long-term damage to children’ health?” Underwood asked.

“The information I was aware of at the time was that the trauma is part of the journey to come up to the border illegally,” Nielsen said.

“Again, we’re asking for yes or no answers, ma’am,” Underwood replied before asking is Nielsen was familiar with research connecting the trauma of family separation to “something called ‘Toxic Stress.’”

“I’m not familiar with that term, no,” the secretary admitted.

“Were you aware Toxic Stress can actually change a child’s brain, because it is still developing?” Underwood asked.

“I wasn’t familiar with the term,” Nielsen replied.

“Okay, were you aware that the effects of these traumas are cumulative, that they get worse the longer the trauma goes on?” Underwood pressed.

Nielsen appeared flustered, asking for a chance to “clarify” because “we’re missing a bigger point here.”

“Were you aware that the traumatic effects don’t go away, even if the child is reunited with their family?” Underwood continued.

“I understand that they are…” Nielsen began, before saying, “no.”

“From what I've heard today, I'm not sure if DHS was so negligent they didn't know how traumatic family separation was for children, or if they knew and did it anyway,” Underwood said in closing. “In my opinion both are unacceptable.”

Nielsen requested time to “put this in a brief context,” but Thompson refused.

“Madame secretary, editorializing is not part of the rules,” Thompson said.

Watch the full video below:

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.