‘Very unfortunately, because of the increase in violence, at ICE, when we have families with children, we have to give every girl a pregnancy test over 10. This is not a safe journey,’ Nielsen told the House Homeland Security Committee.
Doctors Without Borders reported in 2017 that ‘68.3 percent of the migrant and refugee populations entering Mexico’ from Central America ‘reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the United States.’
And ‘[n]early one-third of the women surveyed had been sexually abused during their journey,’ the group concluded.
During a speech Saturday to conservative activists, President Trump claimed that when girls head north, Central American mothers routinely ‘give them massive amounts of birth control pills because they know their daughters are going to be raped on the way up to our southern border.’
‘Think of how evil that is,’ he said.
Trump recalled the beating he took in the press after condemning illegal immigrant ‘rapists’ during his 2015 campaign launch speech.
‘If you look at that speech, that was so innocent compared to what’s really happening. That was a very innocent speech compared to the real facts,’ he said Saturday.
Nielsen clashed Wednesday with House Democrats over border security and the still-lingering crisis of family separations.
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, told her that President Donald Trump abused his power last month by announcing that he would build a long-promised border wall without congressional approval to correct a ‘non-existent emergency.’
Nielsen countered that tens of thousands of families are illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border every month, flooding in numbers too great for her agency to contain. And she predicted that the numbers would reach new peaks in the spring.
Last month more than 76,000 migrants were apprehended at or near the border without permission to enter the country. That was more than double the number during the same period in 2018.
Meanwhile the White House is still bearing the effects of a public relations nightmare over a Justice Department zero-tolerance policy for illegal border-jumpers, including those with children in tow. That directive led to thousands of minors being housed far away from the adults who brought them into the U.S.
Under aggressive questioning on Wednesday, Nielsen told Democrats that ‘the last three administrations’ did the same thing.
She claimed many people who make asylum claims are ‘posing as family units’ in order to take advantage of loopholes in America’s immigration policy that make it harder to deport parents than single adults.
And ‘recycling rings,’ she said, reuse the same children over and over to help strings of adults, mostly from Central America, enter the U.S. and disappear: ‘Children are being used as pawns to get into our country.’
More than 60 per cent of the people who now cross the border without papers are family units and unaccompanied alien children, she said, a dramatic change from past decades.
‘This is a legitimate national emergency,’ Nielsen declared, citing the ‘twin crises’ of humanitarian emergencies among vulnerable populations and the threat drug cartels and human traffickers pose with an unsecured border.
She said she had no idea of the depths of the problem when she took over DHS, and remains convinced that most Americans would recognize the situation as a national emergency if they saw ‘the pure numbers that are coming in.’
Thompson was unrelenting on Wednesday, noting that ‘two small children died in the department’s custody.’
‘The president shut down the federal government over demands for more taxpayer money for a border wall, and most recently the president declared a non-existent emergency at the border because Congress would not capitulate to his funding demands,’ he said.
Minutes later Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, tweeted a protest.
‘@BennieGThompson dismissed the emergency at our border as “non-existent.” He should tell that to the communities devastated by the drug crisis, the families who have lost loved ones to illegal alien crime, and the migrants who have suffered at the hands of ruthless traffickers,’ she wrote.
Sanders later clobbered Democrats by saying [t]he crisis at our border is no secret’ but committee Democrats ‘are just choosing to ignore it.’
Thompson and other Democrats grilled Nielsen on Wednesday about the decision to enforce immigration law in a way that left thousands of parents without access to their children for months at a time.
‘No amount of verbal gymnastics will change that she knew the Trump administration was implementing a policy to separate families at the border,’ he said.
Nielsen countered that ‘the consequence of any adult going to jail in this country is they’re separate from their child. That wasn’t the point of it. The point was to increase prosecutions for those breaking the law, and not exempt any class of aliens.’
She also said that before deporting an adult who entered the U.S. with one or more children as a ‘family unit,’ DHS offers them in writing the opportunity to take the minors with them.
And she said a subagency always makes a second attempt, working with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, to reunite them before sending the adult back to his or her home country.
‘There was no parent who has been deported, to my knowledge, without multiple opportunities to take their children with them,’ she testified.
The larger problem, Nielsen told the House panel, is one of human smugglers from the ‘Northern Triangle’ countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua crossing the border in large numbers and failing to come to court for hearings about their asylum claims.
‘Only one in ten individuals from the Northern Triangle are ultimately granted asylum by an immigration judge,’ she said. ‘Unfortunately, when it comes time to remove the other 90 per cent – who have been determined by an immigration judge to have no legal right to stay in the United States – they have absconded from their last known location. And we do not have sufficient resources to find and remove them.’
‘The problem is getting worse,’ she said. ‘The smugglers and traffickers have caught on, realizing this is a “free ticket” into America. As a result, the flow of families and children has become a flood. In the past five years, we have seen a 620 per cent increase in families – or those posing as families – apprehended at the border. This last fiscal year was the highest on record.’