According to her own department's figures, at least 2,000 children have been separated from their guardians since mid-April as the administration ramped up enforcement of a new "zero-tolerance policy" on illegal border crossings.
Based on Homeland Security policy and what CBS News has seen in person, claims that all kids are being separated from their parents at the border is false. And yet, she kicked off the presser citing stats: "Since this time a year ago, there has been a 325% increase in unaccompanied alien children and a 435% increase in family units entering the country illegally".
The White House delayed the briefing three times to allow for Nielsen, who attended the National Sheriffs' Association meeting in New Orleans this morning, to answer questions. Nielsen said the administration would continue to send the children to temporary detention centers in warehouses and big box stores until Congress rewrites the nation's immigration laws.
The DHS "is no longer ignoring the laws", enforcing them as they exist on the books, she said. One girl repeatedly asks to be put in touch with an aunt, reeling off a number she had memorized. "I think what you saw in Tornillo was the manifestation of a awful policy of separating kids from their families", said Hurd, whose district includes a large swath along the U.S. -Mexico border.
"The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their frightful and cruel legislative agenda", Trump tweeted Friday. "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the objective of order", he said Thursday.
Furthermore, the rise of facilities that house children separated from their families at the border during Trump's administration has been well documented.
The Trump administration has sought several amendments to the TVPRA, arguing that many unaccompanied migrant children are not actually victims of human-trafficking, and therefore most of those children should be "promptly returned to their home countries".
Said Nielsen of the children: "Don't believe the press".
Religious leaders are speaking out against the policy, with Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski saying the practice effectively "weaponizes" children, on NPR's Weekend Edition. We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully, placing them at risk. "They can go to our ports of entry if they want to claim asylum".
Previously, families crossing the border together would normally be released into the USA with an order to appear in immigration court.
"We do not separate breastfeeding children from their parents", the DHS official said.
"Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children", it read.