Originally published by Politico
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told lawmakers that the Trump administration is on track to meet a court deadline to reunify families that were separated at the southern border due to a zero-tolerance enforcement policy, according to members.
“She said — and we questioned her numerous times — she said that she believes that they’re on pace to be unified tomorrow,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) told reporters following a Congressional Hispanic Caucus meeting with Nielsen on Wednesday morning. “That’s impossible. We all said this to her.”
Nielsen‘s trip to Capitol Hill came a day ahead of a deadline to reunify families. The Trump administration on Monday told the court it had either reunited or “appropriately discharged” nearly 1,200 of the roughly 2,550 children ages 5 and older who were forcibly separated from their parents.
“It’s impossible. She said that they would all be reunified by the court-mandated time, which is tomorrow,” Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) said. “That’s absolutely impossible. They still have hundreds of parents — they don’t even know where they are. They’ve deported them. How in the hell are they gonna reunify them by tomorrow? They don’t even know there they are.”
Nielsen described the conclave in a brief exchange with reporters as “very productive” and “very frank,” a rosy outlook members disagreed with.
CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said members “didn’t get very many concrete answers” from Nielsen, noting that there were “clear differences of opinion about what’s happening in U.S. custody,” including whether family separation continues in any format and whether any children or families have been harmed at the border.
“We did not resolve any of those issues,” she added.
Gallego said Nielsen also told members that DHS was cutting 1 percent from other departments to pay for family separations and detentions. “Most Americans would be very surprised to know that this mistake that this presidency has done in terms of separating families is actually costing us some real money and manpower when it comes to coming after the real criminals that we do find at the border,” he said.
“This whole operation has been one big … just one big mess,” he added.
Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) added that members didn’t get many answers from Nielsen but said the secretary agreed to meet with them again.
“We don’t know when,” she said. “We hope to get more answers because we got very limited answers today.”
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.