‘We will not apologize:’ Homeland Security chief Nielsen defends immigration policy

The nation's homeland security chief insisted Sunday that immigrant children are not being separated from their parents at the border - despite the Trump administration defending its policy and eyewitness accounts of government-snatched boys and girls being held in cages at a private detention center in Texas.

Outrage at the administration's new "zero tolerance" crackdown at the border reached a new peak over the weekend, as protesters rallied outside a tent camp for migrant children in El Paso, Texas, and several prominent Republicans joined Democrats in denouncing the policy as callous and cruel.

Some, like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, blasted the Trump administration for its conduct, but in her response on Monday, Nielsen suggested that not everyone who appeared as a family unit was, in fact, one.

Nielsen says DHS can not detain children and parents together, so the only choice is to let families go free or detain them separately. She said those seeking asylum "have no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry".

Through the end of May, nearly 2,000 children were separated from adults who said they were their parents or guardians, the department said last week.

Todd Schulte, president of the advocacy group FWD.us, added that the DHS website also contains a flyer outlining "the steps a parent in Border Patrol or ICE custody can take to locate their child, once said child has been separated from them". Because of those fraudulent claims, Nielsen said, the United States faced a backlog with hundreds of thousands of cases.

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For one thing, when CNN reporter April Ryan asked Nielsen if the kids were being used as pawns in political games, Nielsen denied the charge.

Trump administration officials have argued repeatedly in recent weeks that Democrats are responsible for the separation policy in an apparent reference to Congress' inability to pass an immigration bill that would provide funding for Trump's proposed border wall.

On Monday Trump blamed child separation on "horrible laws", as well as Democrats, who he complained were "obstructing" immigration legislation. "If you smuggle illegal aliens across an extraordinarily risky journey, we will prosecute you".

Inside the Trump administration, current and former officials say, there is considerable unease about the policy, which is regarded by some charged with carrying it out as unfeasible in practice and questionable morally. They are very well taken care of... She framed the issue as anyone who votes against their preferred policy is voting against the "rule of law". That's a shift from previous policy, when parents were typically detained with their children, temporarily, then released to await a hearing in immigration court. She made her choice.

Nielsen said "those who have complained" about the policies now have an "opportunity" to work with the administration on the issue. "It is time to fix it", Nielsen said.

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