During her disastrous Wednesday hearing on the Trump administration’s inhumane family separation policy, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress that she didn’t know of any parents who were deported without being given the chance to bring their children with them.
But just hours later, TPM reports, Trump’s own Department of Justice filed a court document that contradicted her testimony — and indicates that Nielsen may have lied to Congress.
The court filing admits that up to 471 parents may have been deported without being given the chance to reunite with their children. The filing was part of an ongoing class action lawsuit against the government on behalf of those parents — many of whom say they were tricked into signing away their rights to ever see their kids again.
But during her testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Nielsen acted like she had never heard of this lawsuit or those parents.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) asked Nielsen, “Can you confirm that there has never been a parent deported, under your tenure, without finding out if they want their children to go with them?”
“To the best of my knowledge every parent was afforded that option,” Nielsen responded, under oath.
The question from Rice was a follow-up to an earlier question along the same lines from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), to whom Nielsen responded, “There was no parent who has been deported, to my knowledge, without multiple opportunities to take their children with them.”
After Nielsen doubled down on her denial, Rice accused her of breaking the law by lying to Congress.
“This is a lie,” Rice said on Twitter. “Lying to Congress under oath is a felony. The last person who did that is going to prison.”
This is a lie.
Lying to Congress under oath is a felony.
The last person who did that is going to prison. https://t.co/bbjVS4uGGc
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) March 6, 2019
Rice was likely referring to Trump’s longtime attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s involvement in business dealings about a proposed development in Russia.
Evidence contradicting Nielsen’s testimony has been available in news reports for months. But the DOJ’s court filing that same day put an especially fine point on it.
In a joint status report filed in federal court hours after Nielsen testified, DOJ lawyers admitted 471 parents may have been deported “without their children, and without being given the opportunity to elect or waive reunification in accordance with the preliminary injunction.”
471 parents is significantly more than the zero parents Nielsen claims she knew of.
During the height of the Trump administration’s cruel family separation policy, many parents complained that they were tricked into agreeing to be deported without taking their children with them. Buzzfeed reported that some parents who did not speak English were pressured to sign documents they could not read, which gave up their right to reunite with their children. Other parents signed documents thinking it was the only way to be reunited, only to find out later the documents meant the opposite.
Evidence of these atrocities have been in the public domain since at least July 2018.
Nielsen either knew this — which would mean she lied to Congress — or should have known this yet somehow didn’t. That means that at best, she was neglecting one of the most high-profile issues facing her department.
Published with permission of The American Independent.
IMAGE: Kirstjen Nielsen is sworn in at a hearing on her nomination to become the 6th Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee in Washington, D.C., Nov. 08, 2017.