ICE nominee refuses to rule out future family separations

ICE nominee refuses to rule out future family separations
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE’s nominee to run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said separating families at the border could be an option for the future to deter future migrants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The White House is currently considering a policy that would give detained parents awaiting deportation hearings an option to either remain detained with their children for an indefinite amount of time or allow their children to be separated and taken to a government shelter for another relative or guardian to take custody of them. 

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“It is a way for people to have a due process opportunity and remain in custody…It is an option,” Ronald Vitiello told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

“We’ll get less people bringing their children,” he added. “It is an option.” 

However, he did note that such a plan would conflict with a current directive from Trump for ICE to keep detained families together.” 

Vitiello failed to directly respond to senators’ questions regarding how long it is appropriate for families to be separated and if such practices could cause mental harm to children. 

“We’d like to be in a place where no one got separated,” he added. “We’d like to be in a place where lots of people didn’t bring their kids to the border and try to cross illegally, but that’s the situation we’re faced with now.”

Increased focus was placed on the White House’s immigration stance since its “zero tolerance” policy implemented earlier this year sparked intense backlash. Over 2,500 children were separated from their parents because of the policy, which did not lay out any guidelines for reunification. Trump ended the policy in June.

“We have the capacity in the United States of America to control our borders without harming children,” Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanFinding a path forward to end surprise medical billing Trump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (D-N.H.) said during the hearing. “That is something that I am quite confident that we can do.” 

Vitiello, who is a former Border Patrol agent and current acting director of ICE, admitted that the organization was unprepared for the public backlash against the policy, which mostly focused on his agency.

The outcry against ICE became so strong that the hashtag #AbolishICE trended on social media and several senators, including several potential Democratic presidential candidates, said the body should be dissolved.

The hearing comes as a group of thousands of Central American migrants make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border, with many intending to declare asylum as they flee from violence in their home country.

Trump has slammed the group as a “caravan” filled with gang members and sent the military to the border to prevent it from crossing. 

“Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!” he tweeted last month.