Trump and Nielsen: 'Change the Laws!' 'Children Are Being Used'

Susan Jones | June 18, 2018 | 11:16am EDT
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President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen attend a Coast Guard Change of Command Ceremony at the White House on June 1. (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

( - Responding to the Monday-morning media hysteria about children being "ripped" from their mothers or fathers when that parent crosses the border illegally, President Trump responded with a flurry of tweets.

"CHANGE THE LAWS," he wrote on Monday:

It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder (sic) Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!

Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.

We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!

The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!

Why don’t the Democrats give us the votes to fix the world’s worst immigration laws? Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?

On Sunday, the president tweeted:

The Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts and work something out on Border Security & Safety. Don’t wait until after the election because you are going to lose!

Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!

Immigration is expected to be one of the main topics when President Trump meets Tuesday night with the House Republican conference.

The child-separation controversy gathered steam last month, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions said people crossing the border "unlawfully" will be prosecuted:

"If you smuggle an illegal alien across the border, then we’ll prosecute you," Sessions said. "If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”

But as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted over the weekend, there is no policy of separating families at the border, as long as they are seeking asylum at ports of entry.

But it's a different story for illegal border crossers.

In a speech on Monday, Nielsen said, "Today, the Department of Homeland Security is referring those who illegally cross our borders to the Department of Justice  for prosecution. Every day, in communities across the country, if you commit a crime, the police will take you to jail, regardless of whether you have a family."

Nielsen noted that when a child is apprehended with their parent or parents between ports of entry, "DHS is required, due to various court rulings, to realease the child within 20 days. ...This get-out-of-jail-free card for families -- and groups that pose as families -- has spread -- the word of this has spread. The smugglers and traffickers know these loopholes better than our members of Congress."

Between October 2017 and this February, "we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country," Nielsen said. "This must stop."

Nielsen is advocating changes in the law to allow the "expeditious return of unaccompanied alien children." Right now, only unaccompanied alien children from Mexico and Canada may be promptly returned to their home countries. She also is asking Congress to allow DHS to keep families together while they are detained.

Nielsen also said the U.S. system of asylum is broken. She said the standard for claiming "credible fear," a prerequisite for asylum, is "incredibly low." "Our generosity is being abused," she said. Nielsen is urging Congress to adjust the standard of proof to prevent "well-coached applicants from uttering the magic words indicating a fear of returning home."

In a letter to Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar dated June 16, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) pointed to "credible" media reports describing instances where parents and children seeking asylum at a port of entry have been separated.

The senators asked how many children have been separated from their parents at ports of entry; how long the separations last; how the separations are justified; and if the separations are happening to deter future illegal immigration.

Sen. Collins told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday she does not support the separation of children from their illegal-border-crossing parents.

"Senator Jeff Flake and I have written to the administration to ask for more information about the policy. But we already know two things.

"First, from the experience of previous administrations, it does not act a deterrent to use children in this fashion. And, second, and much more important, it is inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents, unless there is evidence of abuse or another very good reason."

Collins said if the child is being abused or trafficked, "that is justification for separating the parents from the child and arresting the parent and protecting the child.

"But that is not what is going on," Collins continued. "What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that, if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you.

"That is traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country. That is not to say that we shouldn't act to try to curb illegal immigration. We should. And I support the president's proposals for border security.

"We do need to strengthen our security at the border. We need to work with those countries in Central America from which these families are coming to end the gang violence that is encouraging them to leave. And in some cases, we need to repatriate the whole family back to the host country. But we know from years of experience that we need to fix our immigration laws, and that using children is not the answer."

In a series of tweets over the weekend, DHS Secretary Nielsen wrote:

We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.

You are not breaking the law by seeking asylum at a port of entry.

For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between 'family' members, or if the adult has broken a law.

This misreporting by Members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.

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