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DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's House testimony was a disaster

During the first hearing before the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that the cages Customs and Border Protection (CBP) used to detain migrant and asylum-seeking kids aren't really cages. [19659002] "Sir, they are not cages, they are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they are being processed," Thompson (D-MS) Thompson, unimpressed with Nielsen's euphemistic description, responded to count here, " Don't mislead the committee ." Thompson wasn't the only Democrat who didn 't buy Nielsen's semantic games. During questioning from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) a short time later, Nielsen had a hard time differentiating between CBP's facilities for detached kids and dog kennels. “Does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside ? ”Watson Coleman asked. “ Yes … it's larger, it has facilities, it gives room to sit, to stand down – ” “ So does my dog's cage, ”Watson Coleman interjected. @RepBonnie : What is a chain link fence enclosed in a chamber on a concrete floor? A cage? @SecNielsen : It's a detention space, mam REP BONNIE: Is it different from what you put dogs in? NIELSEN: Yes REP BONNIE: In what sense? NIELSEN: It's larger B: Sounds like a dog cage pic.twitter.com/hcIEv4zwrE – Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 6, 2019 Following the hearing , Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) flatly rejected Nielsen's suggestion that there is meaningful distinction between…

During the first hearing before the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that the cages Customs and Border Protection (CBP) used to detain migrant and asylum-seeking kids aren’t really cages. [19659002] “Sir, they are not cages, they are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they are being processed,” Thompson (D-MS)

Thompson, unimpressed with Nielsen’s euphemistic description, responded to count here, ” Don’t mislead the committee .”

Thompson wasn’t the only Democrat who didn ‘t buy Nielsen’s semantic games. During questioning from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) a short time later, Nielsen had a hard time differentiating between CBP’s facilities for detached kids and dog kennels.

“Does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside ? ”Watson Coleman asked.

“ Yes … it’s larger, it has facilities, it gives room to sit, to stand down – ”

“ So does my dog’s cage, ”Watson Coleman interjected.

Following the hearing , Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) flatly rejected Nielsen’s suggestion that there is meaningful distinction between cages and the facilities CBP uses to house detained kids.

More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents and detained by CBP last year. Though President Donald Trump ended the practice with an executive order last summer, government data released last month.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Niels confirmed that some parents were deported without their children, but added that there was no parent who had been deported to my knowledge without multiple opportunities to take their children with them . ”Following the hearing, however, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) posted a tweet accusing her about lying about that.

so far this year . ”

Nielsen’s comments about cages weren’t the only ones that didn’t go over well with Democrats on Wednesday. At another point, she bizarrely refused to admit that a demonstrable falsehood Trump pushed during a recent trip to the US-Mexico border about how there have “never [been] so many apprehensions ever in our history” at the border, in fact, false.

“I don’t have the full context of that,” Nielsen said, after Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) pressed here to simply admit Trump was wrong

“I’m just trying to get” yes “or” no, “it seems self-evident,” Langevin replied. “Is the president misleading the American people?”

Nielsen also had a hard time explaining the Trump administration’s recent crackdown on asylum seekers. As Vox’s Dara Lind detailed, asylum seekers are increasingly being forced to wait in Mexico before they are heard:

Since late January, the Trump administration has turned back some Central American asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed. It’s an unprecedented response to what the Trump administration sees as its biggest problem: the fact that growing numbers of people are coming to the US without papers who can be summarized and deported.

By returning them to wait in Mexico, the administration is allowing them to pursue court cases in the US without actually admitting them.

About the past month, the new policy ramped up slowly at a single border crossing. Now the unofficial pilot program is over, and the wider adoption of returns to Mexico has started.

Asylum seekers are generally allowed under US law to claim asylum on US soil. During Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) discusses Nielsen about the way they are treated [Administration] “Don’t want the American people knowing what is happening at that Southern border,” Barragán told Nielsen, alluding her own experiences when she traveled to the border and witnessed the asylum process first-hand. “And Madam Secretary, I don’t know if you know what’s happening, or if this is happening without you knowing, but it’s totally unacceptable.”

At other points, Nielsen dodged questions about her dubious testimony last year that the trump administration never had a family separation policy, admitted she’s broadly unfamiliar with research indicating children are traumatized by being separated from their parents, and struggled to explain how the border The Trump administration is still pushing for curtail the flow of smuggled drugs – most of which through ports of entry.

But if Wednesday is any indication, with Democrats now in control of the House and eager to conduct oversight, she is in for more grueling hearings about the next couple years.

There are indications that Nielsen knew she would be in for a tough time on Wednesday. CBS reported that Chair Thompson’s committee had threatened to subpoena Nielsen to testify before she agreed to appear voluntarily. Democrats, of course, didn’t have that power to flipping 40 seats and taking control of the House following November’s elections.


The news moves stuck. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage .

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