On Friday's New Day on CNN, co-host Alisyn Camerota suggested that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last year lied and tried to cover up the change in policy that led to the separation of illegal immigrant parents from their children, but it turns out that the CNN host was citing a tweet by Nielsen that was taken out of context that actually only applied to asylum seekers following the proper legal procedure.
In fact, at a June 2018 press conference, Secretary Nielsen even more explicitly stated that illegal immigrants are criminals and will be separated from their children during prosecution.
The erroneous claim came during an interview with Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who questioned Nielsen this week when the DHS secretary gave testimony in the House of Representatives. At about 7:20 a.m. Eastern, after beginning the segment by discussing the Democratic party's struggle with how to deal with anti-Semitic comments by Michigan Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Camerota pivoted to Nielsen's testimony.
Without clarifying that it was not a change in policy for the Trump administration to keep children temporarily in cage-like structures for a few days since it was also done by other administrations, Camerota brought up Slotkin confronting Nielsen about the issue. A clip of the congresswoman addressing Nielsen was played:
When you saw those pictures of babies in cages, what did you do? What did you do to just scream bloody murder up the chain to the President to say, "I cannot represent an agency that is forcing its border patrol to do this"? What did you do?
After Nielsen's reaction to the question was played, Slotkin was given a chance to complain about the response, and then Camerota suggested that Nielsen has a history of being dishonest as she followed up: "You remember that, in June, she tweeted this: 'We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.'"
After showing an image of the tweet on screen, Camerota added: "Did that come up yesterday? That was not true."
But if one takes the time to check all the tweets Secretary Nielsen sent out on that day, June 17, 2018, time stamped between 2:51 and 2:53 p.m. Eastern, Nielsen sent out five tweets on the issue. The first read:
This misreporting by Members, press & interest 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.
Her second tweet read: "You are not breaking the law by seeking asylum at a port of entry." Her third tweet, which was ready by Camerota, stated: "We do not have a policy of separating famiiles at the border. Period."
Nielsen then added in her fourth tweet: "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."
Adults who cross the border with children illegally would therefore fall under the category of those separated from their children.
The DHS Secretary was also responding to claims in the media that legal asylum seekers who were going to ports of entry were being separated from their children even though this was typically not done.
On the next day, Secretary Nielsen held a press conference in which she repeated these points and directly stated that illegal immigrants would be treated as criminals, separated from their children and prosecuted.
The final tweet in the succession read: "DHS takes very seriously its duty to protect minors in our temporary custody from gangs, traffickers, criminals and abuse."
As Slotkin responded, she brought up complaints about Nielsen denying that the policy change was meant to be a "deterrent" and brought up documents that contradict her. As if there were something wrong with trying to deter illegal immigrants from risking their children's lives by dragging them through a desert or across a river, Camerota followed up:
I mean, Jeff Sessions admitted as much when he was attorney general. He said it was a deterrent. So I just don't know how you and Congress necessarily trust what she says after such an unequivocal false statement.