Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was lambasted in June for denying a plainly evident reality — that the Trump administration had instituted an unprecedented policy of systematically separating migrant families arrested at the border.
“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” Nielsen wrote in a tweet on June 17. “Period.”
Not only was that clearly untrue at the time — the United States was in fact systematically separating families at the border — but a document released Monday via a document request from Open the Government and the Project On Government Oversight shows that Nielsen (or, improbably, someone acting on her behalf) signed off on the policy in advance.
The “Memorandum for the Secretary,” dated April 23, was sent to Nielsen by the leaders of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The memo lists three options to address President Donald Trump’s desire to increase “immigration violation prosecution referrals,” the third of which was to refer for federal prosecution everyone apprehended at the border — including parents.
“DHS could also permissibly direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted,” the memo reads.
“We recommend Option 3 as the most effective method to achieve operational objective and the Administration’s goal to end ‘catch and release,'” it adds later. “This initiative would pursue prosecution of all amenable adults who cross our border illegally, including those presenting with a family unit, between ports of entry in coordination with DOJ.”
Nielsen (or someone signing on her behalf; her signature was redacted on privacy grounds by DHS’ FOIA office) chose option three.
Read Open the Government’s report on the document here.
H/t BuzzFeed News.