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The appalling separation of children from their families at the US-Mexico border stems from policy decisions made in spring 2018 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented a “zero tolerance” policy, whereby all undocumented immigrants are referred to the DOJ for immediate criminal prosecution and deportation. As a result, nearly 3,000 children were separated from their parents by DHS, though thousands more may have separated during an influx that started in 2017, before the court required tracking. Due to a lack of coordinated formal tracking system, the total number of children separated from their parents is “unknown.”
Members of the Trump administration have publicly admitted that the barbaric family separation policy was meant to deter undocumented families trying to escape violence in their home countries. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s oversight of this egregious human rights violation, combined with her lies to Congress and the American public about the family separation policy make her utterly unfit for her role. Congress must call on Nielsen to resign immediately.