Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan refuted Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s charge that the Trump administration wants to keep migrant children in custody.
“You want to keep kids longer. It’s been very clear from this administration,” Tlaib said to McAleenan during his appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
The congresswoman cited the Trump administration’s opposition to the Flores decision, which mandates that minor children apprehended at the border must be released to parents, adult relatives or sanctioned programs within 20 days.
McAleenan countered, “We want to keep families together through an immigration proceeding that is fair and expeditious and in an appropriate setting. That can’t be done in 20 days with due process.”
“We need to be able to finish immigration proceeding before people are released. Otherwise, we don’t have an effective result,” he added.
Tlaib then suggested the “child separation” policy is still in place.
“There is no separation policy,” McAleenan said. “There is a court order and an executive order that define the conditions for the welfare of the child, and they are limited conditions and they’re extraordinarily rare.”
“Out of 450,000 families this year, fewer than 900 children have been separated from the adult they cross with who is a parent,” he added. “And they have been because of a criminal history or prosecution, not related to the immigration process, a medical issue or use or neglect concern with the child.”
The Trump administration briefly instituted a “zero tolerance” policy in the spring of 2018 for six weeks, during which some children were separated from their parents while adults faced possible criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in June 2018 effectively ending child separation from parents whose sole crime is illegally crossing the border.
A report generated by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found that potentially 2,648 children were separated from their families at the southern border, based on statistics provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
To date, HHS has provided data to the committee on 1,619 children, showing 99 percent of them have been discharged by the department.
“Of the 1,603 discharged children, 1,546 children — or 95 percent — were either reunified with an individual sponsor or released to a parent. Specifically, 1,061 children were released to a parent and 485 children were reunified with an individual sponsor,” the report reads.
Tlaib: “You want to keep kids longer, Mr. Secretary.”
McAleenan: “We want to…”
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) July 18, 2019
Of the remaining 73 not reunited with a sponsor or parent, some remained under HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, while others voluntarily returned to their home countries or turned 18 and aged out of the program.
McAleenan also refuted charges by House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings that DHS is not providing adequate care for migrant children at the border, saying they are doing their “level best” under very challenging circumstances.
Rep. Elijah Cummings slams acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan when he says his agency is doing its ‘level best’ pic.twitter.com/PNUEvx3PJF
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 18, 2019
“I am confident that no law enforcement agency in the world is providing more critical lifesaving care or medical support than U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” he said.
He told the committee there have been over 300,000 children apprehended in this fiscal year, which is more than the total number of apprehensions (adults and children) in fiscal year 2017.
There have been over 800,000 total migrants apprehended since October, according to McAleenan.
The acting secretary urged the House members to change the nation’s immigration laws to disincentivize false asylum claims.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.