News & Politics

'I Find That Offensive': DHS Head Flails As Reporters Grill Her About Family Separation Policy

She tried defending the indefensible.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday tried defending the administration's policy of breaking up immigrant families at the border. 

It did not go well.

Stepping up at the White House press briefing in Sarah Sanders' place, apparently because the press secretary didn't want to face questions on the administration's catastrophic policy, Nielsen lied, twisted the truth and deflected to avoid taking any responsibility, on her own behalf or on behalf of the administration, for the policy being implemented.

"Are you intending for this to play out as it's playing out?" one reporter asked. "Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?" 

"I find that offensive. No." Nielsen said. "Why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?"

As reporters in the room pointed out, though, this answer makes no sense. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has framed the zero-tolerance policy that leads to the high rate of family separations as a method to deter immigrants. And shortly after President Donald Trump's inauguration, Nielsen's predecessor, John Kelly, raised the idea of separating families specifically as a deterrent.

She also refused to comment on the lack of images of young girls and toddlers who are known to be in the federal government's custody. While the administration has released images of boys being kept in large cages, it hasn't shown similar images of the younger children or the girls — prompting many reporters to wonder if the government is trying to hide something.

When she said she hasn't heard the audio recording of children wailing and crying in one of the government's facilities, one reporter in the room began playing it aloud — though Nielsen didn't respond.

Nielsen also insisted that it wasn't true, as many have reported, that asylum-seekers are being turned away from ports of entry, forcing them to cross at unauthorized entry points. But then she went on to say, in fact, that families often are turned away when border agents don't have the resources to process them, though they are told to come back.

Watch the clip below:

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.