Freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) woke up “what had been relatively sleepy interrogation” last week of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to the Daily Beast.
Slotkin has an extensive background in national security, having served as acting assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Nielsen testified before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. Slotkin asked her if she knew about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) policy of family separation, which President Donald Trump reversed in June 2018 under considerable pressure.
Here’s the exchange, as reported by the Daily Beast:
“Did you initiate the separation of families for the express purpose of deterring families from coming to the United States?” asked Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).
“No, I did not,” said Nielsen, before adding that “the whole purpose of that was to increase consequences for those who choose to break the law… if there is no consequences, we do not see the instances of the crime decreasing. So what we did was we increased the number of prosecutions.”
The exchanges heated up what had been relatively sleepy interrogation of the secretary by the committee up to that point, wherein Nielsen continued to deny that the Trump administration’s family separation policy existed—a position that Nielsen has taken since that policy first came to light in late spring of last year.
The Advance broke the story last month that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer nixed a $35 million private immigrant detention center in Ionia. Her decision came, in part, out of concern that the facility would house separated families.
After that exchange with Slotkin, the congressional hearing got heated, the Daily Beast reported:
Nielsen, who was in her third hour of aggressive questioning on border security matters by Democrats on the House Committee on Homeland Security, repeatedly refused to answer Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) on whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection was “still putting children in cages” at detention facilities on the U.S. southern border. Nielsen instead described the cages as “areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection” of children in USCBP detention.
“Sir, they’re not cages. We don’t use cages for children,” Nielsen said. “To my knowledge, CBP never put a child in cages.”
“I just want you to admit that the cages exist!” Thompson said incredulously. “I saw them and you did too—all you have to do is admit it. Don’t mislead the committee. Do not mislead the committee.”