The secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, who was in charge of carrying out Trump's family separation practice, reportedly defended herself as "not racist" on Wednesday. According to the San Antonio Express News, Hispanic lawmakers grilled Kirstjen Nielsen about the administration's plan to meet the Thursday deadline for reuniting migrant families it separated.
In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, San Antonio Express News reported that Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro said Nielsen defended herself, saying, "I am not a racist. Nobody believes families should be separated." In a statement to Bustle, Nielsen said:
Today’s meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus consisted of a productive and frank conversation about our broken immigration system. I discussed our reunification efforts and my many efforts to systemically address illegal immigration pull and push factors and to work with the governments of Mexico, the Northern Triangle and international organizations on the later.
Nielsen added that she was "committed to meeting with any Member of Congress in good faith to be transparent about the Administration’s border security efforts, to address their concerns and to discuss lasting solutions."
The family separation policy is no longer supposed in effect as the result of an executive order Trump signed in June. Critics, however, seem unconvinced about the success of such an order as they point to the cases of children who still haven't seen their parents as well as the Trump administration failing to meet court-ordered deadlines for reuniting families.
Speaking of the families torn apart under the administration's "zero tolerance" immigration stance at a news conference on Wednesday, Castro said, "It’s inconceivable they’ll be able to reunite the remaining children by the deadline." According to the San Antonio Express News, some 3,000 children have been taken away from their parents since April.
Highlighting how Trump's government categorizing parents as "eligible" to meet their children, Castro tweeted on Thursday, "I fear that
@DHSgov is declaring certain parents and children 'ineligible' for reunification because they don’t know their identities or have lost track of the parent or child. It may be cover for incompetence born out of malevolence. #FamiliesBelongTogether"
Other Hispanic lawmakers have also called Nielsen out. Among them was Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego who spoke with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday. "She said — and we questioned her numerous times — she said that she believes that they’re on pace to be unified tomorrow," Gallego said. "That’s impossible. We all said this to her."
Another Hispanic lawmaker, California Rep. Juan Vargas said, "It's impossible. She said that they would all be reunified by the court-mandated time, which is tomorrow. That's absolutely impossible. They still have hundreds of parents; they don't even know where they are. They've deported them. How in the hell are they going to reunify them by tomorrow? They don't even know where they are."
In spite of Nielsen's "positive" assessment of the meeting, lawmakers who met her have given completely different answers. Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham told the press that the lawmakers "didn't get very many concrete answers" from the secretary. Grisham also said that there were "clear differences of opinion about what's happening in United States custody."
The differences included, but were not limited to, reports of how families have been treated at the United States and Mexico border. Ultimately, Grisham said, "We did not resolve any of those issues."