Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations

Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE issued praise for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny Trump signs bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report MORE on Tuesday amid a storm of criticism surrounding the administration's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration.

In a tweet, the president touted Nielsen's performance at Monday's White House press briefing, during which Nielsen fielded questions from reporters over whether DHS's treatment of detained children seeking asylum constitutes child abuse.

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Trump added in the message that he wants to see "heart" in any immigration plan that comes across his desk. The administration has blamed congressional inaction, particularly among Democrats, for the escalating number of separated families and thousands of detained children.

"Homeland Security @SecNielsen did a fabulous job yesterday at the press conference explaining security at the border and for our country, while at the same time recommending changes to obsolete & nasty laws, which force family separation. We want “heart” and security in America!" Trump tweeted.

Nielsen forcefully defended the administration's zero tolerance policy during Monday's briefing, arguing that the administration can't be expected to selectively apply the law while Congress debates a permanent fix for the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. and more on the way.

"This entire crisis, just to be clear, is not new," Nielsen told reporters. “Currently, it is the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws that prevent illegal immigrant minors and family members from being detained and removed to their home countries."

“Congress and the courts created this system, and Congress alone can fix it,” she added.

More than 2,000 minors have been separated from their family members and detained in just six weeks between April and May, according to DHS's own statistics.