Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) called on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign on Monday, citing her track record of enforcing President Donald Trump’s “anti-immigration agenda” and leading the “failed response” to the devastation in Puerto Rico.
Harris also cited a lack of transparency within the department and Nielsen’s routine failure “to provide complete answers to questions from me and my colleagues” on the Homeland Security Committee.
Nielsen has come under increased scrutiny in recent days for her response to media reports on the conditions at immigration processing centers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, border security agents have been given authority to arrest and criminally charge anyone who crosses the border illegally, resulting in thousands of children being separated from their parents.
On Sunday, Nielsen tweeted that the U.S. does not have a family separation policy, only to walk it back Monday by claiming the U.S. “will not apologize” for ripping families apart in order to enforce laws. She followed President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, calling on Congress to “change the laws” of immigration and “close the loopholes.”
Read Harris’ full statement below:
“The government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart. And the government should have a commitment to transparency and accountability. Under Secretary Nielsen’s tenure, the Department of Homeland Security has a track record of neither. As a result, she must resign.
“During her time as the manager of the government’s third largest agency, the Department has implemented a policy that has separated thousands of children from their families, issued a directive to make it easier to detain pregnant women, tried to use DACA recipients as leverage to achieve the President’s anti-immigrant agenda, failed to address some of the agency’s most pressing management challenges and overseen the continued failed response to tragedy in Puerto Rico.
“As a member of the Homeland Security Committee of the United States Senate for the last 18 months, which has oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, I have asked Secretary Nielsen and other DHS officials to clarify each of these policies, because the American people deserve to know the truth. I have, since March of 2017, repeatedly asked for complete data on the number of children separated and what training and protocol exists for carrying out such separations. In response, the leadership of this department has routinely failed to provide complete answers to questions from me and my colleagues.
“The Department’s lack of transparency under Secretary Nielsen’s leadership combined with her record of misleading statements including yesterday’s denial that the Administration even had a policy of separating children at the border, are disqualifying. We must speak the truth. There is no law that says the Administration has to rip children from their families. This Administration can and must reverse course now and it can and must find new leadership for the Department of Homeland Security.”