96°F
weather icon Clear

Homeland Security chief says families will reunite by deadline

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told dis­believing Hispanic lawmakers Wednesday that her department would meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite immigrant children separated from parents due to Trump administration policies.

Nielsen met privately for nearly an hour with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Capitol Hill to discuss ongoing efforts to reunite children separated from immigrant parents at the Southwest border as officials enforced the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

The meeting was held one day before the Department of Homeland Security must meet a federal court-ordered deadline of Thursday to reunite the children with their families.

The secretary emerged from the meeting and said she had “frank” discussions with the group of Democratic lawmakers.

Caucus members left frustrated, without answers and details about reunification plans and details about progress.

“We have a moral, ethical and legal responsibility to do no harm to children, and I refuse to stand by while families are being held in inhumane, inhospitable conditions along our southern border,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., told reporters after leaving the meeting.

Cortez Masto said she told Nielsen that DHS needs a plan to bring more than 400 parents already deported back to the United States to be reunited with their children.

The Nevada senator, who toured detention facilities in South Texas in June, said Nielsen did not directly answer questions by lawmakers and used “alternative facts” to justify the Trump administration’s lack of transparency.

“Secretary Nielsen needs to start telling Congress and the American people the truth,” Cortez Masto said.

A looming deadline

A federal district judge in California has given DHS a Thursday deadline to reunite children as young as 5 years old with parents who entered the country without documents. Most of the families were seeking asylum, and most were from Central American countries.

More than 2,500 children were separated at the the Southwest border by federal officials when the Trump administration began enforcing its zero-tolerance policy this year. DHS claims more than 1,100 children have been reunited with parents. The exact number still separated is unclear.

“We are working to comply with the court order,” Tyler Houlton, the DHS press secretary, told reporters after the meeting. “We are confident we are going to meet it.”

DHS is working with foreign embassies to reunite children with parents who have been deported to their home countries. Houlton said that in many of those cases the parents chose to leave without their children.

Hispanic lawmakers said Nielsen told them that her department was expecting to comply with the order — a statement that most of the House and Senate members who attended the meeting found to be incredulous.

“It surprised a lot of us,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. “I think a lot of people would be surprised if they meet that deadline.”

DHS missed an earlier court-imposed deadline to reunite children under age 5 with their parents.

Lawmakers said they were given no details about how DHS would meet the deadline, and only assurances that children were unharmed and identified to be reunited.

Looking for solutions

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., said “what we were expecting today was solutions.” He claims that didn’t happen.

Kihuen said lawmakers didn’t get answers to questions, many posed by constituents, and not just Latino families, who are disturbed by media pictures and videos of children held in cages or jail cells on the border.

He said the practice of separating children was disturbing for everyone.

“Regardless of what party you belong to, it’s inhumane,” Kihuen said.

After withering criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, the Trump administration reversed the zero-tolerance policy.

“Nobody wants to see children separated from their families, period,” said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., during a Senate floor speech Wednesday.

Heller said he has heard from over 3,500 constituents in Nevada. Some of the families split at the border were being held in Southern Nevada and seeking help.

“So their being unified with their children is a top priority,” Heller said.

Heller and other Senate Republicans are backing a bill that would allow DHS to detain families, but keep them united and confined until asylum claims can be heard by immigration judges.

Democrats have backed bills by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., that would prohibit DHS from separating families and allow asylum seekers to remain in the United States until their applications for protection are heard.

No Republican has backed the Feinstein-Nadler bills, claiming the legislation would codify the “catch and release” system that was followed before the Trump administration crackdown at the border.

“These are folks who are coming here and asking for asylum, that is not an illegal process,” Kihuen said.

About six bills have been filed to address the crisis.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
THE LATEST
House committee OKs bill by Titus for airport signs

The House Homeland Security Committee approved a bill by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Wednesday to translate airport signs into multiple languages to assist tourists and others who don’t speak English.