Kirstjen Nielsen LIED About Baby Jails? That Can't Be Right!
Photo: US Customs and Border Protection

Hey, remember back in June, when Donald Trump's family separation policy was in full swing and thousands of children of undocumented migrants were being taken away and put in baby jails? Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen made a lot of noise insisting there was definitely no such thing as a "family separation policy," because there was only a "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossers, and it merely happened to result in children being taken away from their parents, exactly like when non-rich American mommies and daddies get a DUI. So here's a heck of a surprise: Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show DHS memos arguing for implementing that "zero tolerance" policy precisely because Trump's immigration bosses believed separating kids from their families would deter migrants from trying to cross the border. Yes, drag out the Casablanca "Shocked, Shocked" gif again.

The heavily redacted memo to Nielsen was obtained through a FOIA request by two government transparency groups, Open the Government and the Project On Government Oversight, and was sent by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan (who resigned in August), and Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services L. Francis Cissna, all Trump appointees. The memo frets that more and more "inadmissable aliens" are crossing the border and notes DHS would have to comply with Donald Trump's April 6 executive order banning "catch and release" of illegal border crossers.

The memo outlines the case for adopting "zero tolerance" and makes the case that DHS totally has authority to separate kids from their parents, if the Secretary should wanna:

(Image edited to combine material from two pages, remove footnotes)

The memo also set out three "zero tolerance" options for Nielsen to sign off on and recommends the third one; the details of those three action plans are redacted in the FOIA'd copy, but the groups also say they acquired an unredacted copy of the memo which they aren't releasing, to protect their source. Here's part of the full memo's justification for option 3, the arrest of all adults and the separation of families. Remember that "repatriation" here means deportation of terrible people who are seeking asylum and couldn't be immediately deported:

[It] is very difficult to complete immigration proceedings and remove adults who are present as part of FMUAs [family units] at the border. In fact, only 10 percent of non-Mexican FMUA apprehended during the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 surge have been repatriated in the nearly four years since their illegal crossing. Of these options, prosecuting all amenable adults will increase the consequences for illegally entering the United States by enforcing existing law, protect children being smuggled by adults through transnational criminal organizations, and have the greatest impact on current flows.

So there you have it: an explicit case for family separation as a means of discouraging border crossing, whatever you want to call the policy. The groups also note they plan to appeal the redactions, particularly the redaction of the signature on the document, which is presumably Secretary Nielsen's -- she's the head of Homeland Security, and if she signed off on the policy (who else would have?) there's no justification to hide that behind FOIA privacy policy.

The groups also note what isn't in the policy recommendations, not at all:

The memo does not discuss any plan for reuniting separated families, or the harmful effects of separation on children, nor does it reflect any input from the government agencies who would be responsible for caring for the separated children.

Huh. Why would they consider any of that stuff?

The memo certainly puts the lie to several public statements Nielsen made about the nonexistence of any family separation policy -- including, oh, look! sworn testimony to the Senate!

• On May 10, she told NPR: "It's not our intent to separate people one day longer than is necessary to prove that there is in fact a custodial relationship."

• Under questioning by Sen. Kamala Harris of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 15, Nielsen stated: "We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents."

• And on June 17, she tweeted: "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period."

Oh, yes, we remember that tweet, in which Nielsen also griped about the very very unfair media coverage of "zero tolerance."

Not that Kirstjen Nielsjen will be brjought up on chjarges of ljying to Cjongress, because she'll simply explain that while the policy separated families, and the top immigration brass all argued family separation was a good thing, it was never named the "Family Separation Policy" -- and not one of these FOIA'd documents is named that, now is it?

And as Columbo used to say, Oh yes, just one more thing: Among the documents released in the FOIA request, there's a happy little memo indicating that, even after a federal judge ordered families to be reunified on June 26, DHS was rushing in early July to deport families -- presumably those not explicitly covered by the order -- to "make space" in detention facilities for reunited families.

As the transparency groups note, "The email raises questions on whether those deportations violated due-process protections." Not that "due process" has been much of a thing with this administration unless it applies to possible rapists and the Supreme Court.

All this information is coming out while the government is still holding more than 180 children who were taken from their parents, according to the most recent government filing (dated September 20) in the lawsuit ordering all families be reunified by JULY 26.

Gosh, they only missed the deadline by two full months, and in the meantime, government baby jails are filling up with families and unaccompanied minors because the War On Migrants has scared away US family members who might foster the kids.

Thank heaven there was no family separation policy, or migrants would REALLY be screwed. This would also be a great time to remember that migrant families still need your help, even on a day when you may be giving many of your fucks in another direction.

[Open The Government / 4/23 Family Separation Memo / Slate / Photo: Customs and Border Protection]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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