July 18, 2019

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan came before the House Oversight Committee today to attempt to convince them that conditions there are just hunky-dory for the migrants they detain. Especially for the children. He claimed that there is adequate bed space for children, that they've reduced the number of kids from 2700 to under 350, and that they spend an average of under 35 hours in CBP (Customs and Border Protection) custody. McAleenan stated the family separation policy ended 13 months ago. He even went so far as to claim that "the men and women of DHS have served with vigilance and compassion" throughout this period.

Craig Melvin invited Krish Vignarajah to interpret (read: fact-check) McAleenan's claims. Vignarajah is former policy director to FLOTUS Michelle Obama, and president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. She had her work cut out for her.

MELVIN: All right. My understanding is, Krish, that you've actually worked through your organization on the family reunification process and you contend that family separation is, in fact, still happening. Is that right?

VIGNARAJAH: Yeah, absolutely. So we were one of the two agencies approached by the government to help them reunify families as this crisis broke out last summer. And I can tell you though the policy has ended, the practice continues. Since June 2018, since the end of the zero tolerance policy, we've had nearly 40 cases. I've had four babies under the age of 1 separated. And we're one of many agencies. So the estimate we have right now is that there's been about 700 children that have been separated in recent months.

MELVIN: Well how do you square that with what WE heard from the secretary there? Is he -- is he unaware of that?

VIGNARAJAH: Yeah, I mean, honestly I'm not sure what data he's looking at. Because we flagged this concern in 2017 to our agency contacts and we we continue to report about these cases each time they come about. The reality that even 30 children from the zero tolerance policy have not been reunified with their families a year later? These are all facts that we've conveyed to the government. So, I'm not sure what he's, kind of, reporting on right now. It's not the data, it's not the facts, the statistics, the anecdotes that I can share with you. We had an 8-month-old separated from a parent on Christmas Eve. This is not unusual.

So, according to the agency the government itself has asked to help with reunification, the DHS's Acting Director is completely out of touch mistaken or lying (I know which way *I'm* leaning...) about what is happening at the border to children and families. Babies under the age of one are still being taken from their parents.

Craig Melvin asked her to describe more of what she knew was happening, compared to McAleenan's BS testimony.

VIGNARAJAH: Yeah, I mean, I'll tell you it's just not a reflection of reality. Visiting Homestead, having visited through my staff, Carrizo Springs, which just opened up last week, what we're still seeing is a crisis. I walked into Homestead, at the time I visited it was 1,700 children. It was intended to expand to 2,350, then 3,200 children. When you're warehousing children in those conditions, it's not surprising we have six children who have died. Some of the pictures you're seeing now are of those children. I met with a mother last week. Ms. Juarez, whose daughter died in these horrific conditions. The daughter and the mother were placed in what ICE calls an ice box. For three weeks she pleaded with doctors to give her daughter the care she needed. They wrote it off as an ear infection and she died of a viral infection. The conditions that these children are being placed in are horrific.

Live pictures showed a group at the Rotunda peacefully protesting during these hearings. Elderly men and women were lying on the floor in the shape of a cross. Grey-haired heads bowed as they held out their wrists for the Capitol Police to put them in handcuffs as they were arrested for standing up for migrant children, babies, mothers and fathers. People who clearly remember what World War II signified for humanity, determined that it should never happen again, being led away, shoulders stooped with age, in handcuffs by police.

Nice job, America.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.