Ex-DHS staffer says he quit over Trump administration's handling of family separation policy

Ex-DHS staffer says he quit over Trump administration's handling of family separation policy
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A former civilian staffer at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wrote Thursday that he quit his job earlier this year out of a belief that the Trump administration was ignoring legal concerns about its family separation policy toward migrant children.

Scott Shuchart wrote in a piece for The Washington Post that he quit his job over the summer as a senior adviser at the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in light of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy, which prosecuted any individual who crossed the border illegally.

He claimed multiple lawyers throughout the government, such as himself, raised concerns that the policy violated U.S. or humanitarian laws.

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Schuchart wrote he grew exceedingly frustrated that the political appointees and those enforcing the family separation policy did not heed his or his colleagues' warnings about potential legal and ethical quandaries.

He cited a May 21 meeting in which political appointees carrying out the policy indicated they saw no reason there would be legal concerns about the practice of family separations. 

Schuchart, a non-resident senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, also recalled a June meeting with Border Patrol managers as a breaking point after he claimed that they did not appear interested in fielding the lawyers' questions or heeding their advice on how to work with migrant children.

"I cast about for more to do, but within a month of that June meeting, I realized there was no way to keep my oath and my job," Schuchart wrote. "I quit."

Thousands of immigrant families remained separated for weeks as a result of the policy.

Schuchart's piece included a comment from DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman, who said the department does not "disclose or comment on privileged legal advice provided by our attorneys to the Secretary or other officials, and therefore, unfortunately, we are not in a position to refute false narratives put forward by a former employee."

She added that the Trump administration was enforcing "long-standing U.S. law" with its zero tolerance policy.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request from The Hill seeking additional comment.

In a separate statement to The Hill, Waldman accused Shuchart of taking information out of context and disclosing privileged information about the Trump administration's policies.

"Mr. Shuchart, an attorney who just spent many pages in The Washington Post extolling his morality and trashing many of the dedicated public servants at DHS who work hard every day to secure our nation, apparently has no qualms about quoting from a legally privileged memorandum that he obtained when he was a DHS official and taking such quotation out of context," Waldman said.

The practice of separating immigrant families at the border prompted overwhelming bipartisan backlash as images circulated of children being held in government facilities apart from their parents. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE and DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFar-left bullies resort to harassing, shaming Kyrsten Sinema — it won't work Ex-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides MORE insisted for days that only Congress could address the issue, but the president eventually caved to pressure and signed an executive order halting the separations.

Immigration policy has returned to the forefront in recent days as a caravan of Central American migrants journeys toward the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum.

The president has seized on the group's emergence to revive calls for stricter immigration laws, and pledged to deploy the military to the border to stop the caravan from entering the country.

Updated at 10:31 p.m.