One of the latest high profile atrocities for which the Trump administration is facing scrutiny is their new practice of separating children from their families after coming into the United States over the southern border without documentation.
The defenses from the administration for the policy have ranged all over the place; remarkably, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen went so far as to assert this week that there isn’t even a policy in place to separate undocumented children from their families despite obvious indications to the contrary.
Now, in the wake of that and other instances of questionable-at-best behavior on the part of the Department of Homeland Security, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is calling on Secretary Nielsen to resign.
In her statement on the matter, Harris cites both Nielsen’s conduct in relation to the family separations and her and her department’s conduct when it comes to issues like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, and the detainment of pregnant undocumented mothers.
‘The government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart. And the government should have a commitment to transparency and accountability. Under Secretary Nielsen’s tenure, the Department of Homeland Security has a track record of neither. As a result, she must resign.’
Kamala Harris: Kirstjen Nielsen should resign. pic.twitter.com/rgJ5a4IYEW
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 18, 2018
Through all of these issues, Harris explains, Nielsen’s Department of Homeland Security has been less than forthcoming when responding to Congressional scrutiny. Harris’ perspective on the transparency at DHS is as a member of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, as she notes. In that role, she has engaged at times in high profile back and forth showdowns with Nielsen during hearings.
Harris confronted Nielsen to her face about her concerns including the family separations during a Congressional hearing just last month, at which time she insisted — as she did just recently — that the family separations policy wasn’t actually a family separations policy.
‘What we will be doing is prosecuting parents who have broken the law, just as we do every single day in the United States of America.’
To be clear, though, about the nuances of the situation, seeking asylum in the United States, as some who cross the border without documentation have done and continue to do, is not itself a crime. In most cases, being in the country without proper documentation is not a criminal offense, either — it’s a civil offense, comparable to a parking ticket.
That’s not just uninformed conjecture; the 2012 majority ruling in the Supreme Court case Arizona v. United States explains in part that “as a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”
What is a misdemeanor is crossing the border without proper documentation or authorization — and the penalty that the Trump administration has chosen to impose in response to these non-violent crimes is forced family separation that has gone so far at times as to see parents deported without their children.
How does that make sense?
In short, the opposition birthed from all of these issues that Harris expressed in her statement calling on Nielsen to resign is not new, and it’s not confined to the California U.S. Senator’s office, either. The Trump administration has faced criticism from interests as high ranking as the human rights office of the United Nations — and yet there is not yet any indication of a plan to stop the border family separations.
Featured Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images