Kamala Harris grills Homeland Security secretary on separating parents from kids at border

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisYang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Biden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events MORE (D-Calif.) grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE on Tuesday for the administration's policy of separating kids from their parents.

Harris asked Nielsen at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on national security needs and authorities if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE directed her “to separate parents from children as a method of deterrence of undocumented immigration.”

Nielsen answered that she had not been directed to do so “for purposes of deterrence.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Asked why she is separating families, Nielsen said her decision “has been that anyone who breaks the law will be prosecuted.”

“If you are a parent or you are a single person or you happen to have a family, if you cross between the ports of entry, we will refer you for prosecution,” Nielsen said. “You have broken U.S. law.”

The recently instituted Department of Homeland Security policy refers all people caught crossing the border illegally to prosecution. Prosecuted parents, as a result, would be separated from their children.

Harris, who is seen as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020, kept criticizing the policy of family separation, noting a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that said separating families can cause “irreparable harm.”

Nielsen restated that her department does not have a policy to separate families but instead one to prosecute people who break the law.