To say the Trump administration’s immigration policies have attracted close scrutiny would be an understatement. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has now called for an FBI criminal investigation into possible perjury perpetrated by Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirsjen Nielsen when she asserted to Congress that the administration did not have a policy of separating undocumented immigrant families, despite the large numbers of such separated families at the time.
Recently, a document has emerged from inside the Trump administration confirming that in late 2017 — months before they implemented their “zero tolerance” policy that culminated in the family separations that did happen — they were explicitly floating the idea of separating families when they arrived at the southern border. Merkley feels this revelation is enough to warrant a perjury investigation over the already deeply questionable claim, terming the document “compelling new evidence.”
The document in question explicitly outlines that the administration saw credence in the idea of separating families to criminally prosecute the parents thanks to the “deterrent effect” they believed it would have. Eventually, they put that policy into effect and separated thousands of children from their parents, some of which ended up stuck in the system even after a court-ordered deadline for reunification passed.
Much more recently, the inspector general overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that in reality, thousands more immigrant children had been separated from their parents than previously known under the Trump administration, including a time period stretching before the implementation of their “zero tolerance.” Ultimately, the inspector general’s report concluded, the total number of separated immigrant children under the Trump administration is “unknown.”
The planning that Merkley points to as evidence Nielsen was just bluffing went so far as to outline what the administration would do with the children. The memo stated they would simply become unaccompanied minors without regard for the fact that they originally were accompanied, a shift which would “require close coordination with [Health and Human Services] to ensure that sufficient capacity is available to detain” them.
Despite all of this very specific planning for family separation, Nielsen has told Congress:
‘I’m not a liar. We’ve never had a policy of family separation.’
Perjury is no small matter; just recently, a guilty plea to lying to Congress was the final point before former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison.
The Department of Homeland Security has insisted that the planning documents were just that — planning, claiming it would be “malpractice to not seriously examine every single avenue to gain operational control of the border and ensure that those who are entering our country have a legal right to be here.”
To be clear, seeking asylum is not illegal. Trump administration attempts to curtail the asylum system have been repeatedly struck down in court, leaving both those who come here outside formal ports of entry and fleeing gang or domestic violence in the clear, for now.
Still, the Trump administration keeps on pushing their hate train down the road. President Donald Trump currently refuses to approve any further government funding without over $5 billion for a border wall that itself will not address many immigration issues the United States actually faces.
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