House Homeland Security Committee chairman asks Nielsen to testify on ‘flawed’ border agenda

Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay Exclusive: Biden to run for White House, says Dem lawmaker Nielsen testifies: Five things you need to know MORE (D-Miss.), the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenHispanic Dems ask for multi-agency meeting on family separations 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  The Hill's Morning Report - Boeing crisis a test for Trump administration MORE Friday requesting her to testify in front of the committee regarding the Trump administration’s border security agenda.

“As chairman, I intend to ensure the Committee on Homeland Security fulfills its constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of your Department, including its implementation of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE’s border policy. In your year-long tenure, you have testified before the Committee only once. Another appearance is overdue,” Thompson wrote.

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“The Committee’s first hearing will focus on critical border security matters, to include the border wall, metering of individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry, and the treatment of children in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. As such, I request your participation.”

Thompson ripped a presentation Nielsen submitted to Congress Friday defending the Trump administration’s immigration and border policies.

“Your border security presentation submitted to Congress today is yet another example of the misinformation and outright lies the Trump Administration has used to make the case for the President’s boondoggle border wall, defend the government shutdown, and distract the American people from a border policy so flawed that children have died in Department of Homeland Security custody,” he wrote. 

The strongly worded letter suggests Democrats are serious about making good on their vow to provide vigorous oversight of the Trump administration as they take control of the House of Representatives.

The Trump administration’s border policies and the Department of Homeland Security have been criticized for months after the White House introduced a series of hard-line stances on immigration.

The White House’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which was ultimately repealed, drew widespread condemnation for causing a spike in family separations at the border and sending thousands of children to government-run detention centers. Two migrant children, Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, recently died in government custody.

Trump also proposed policies to restrict migrants’ paths to asylum, such as disallowing immigrants in the country illegally from seeking asylum and forcing migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their requests are processed. Both policies have faced challenges from federal courts.

The president has doubled down in recent weeks on his demand for border wall funding, requiring that $5.6 billion be included in any spending legislation to end a partial government shutdown that is entering its third week. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiMulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending Julian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhy we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds Schumer congratulates J. Lo and A-Rod, but says 'I'm never officiating a wedding again' MORE (D-N.Y.) have both said they would not agree to allocate any additional funds for the wall. However, Trump said Friday he “may” declare a national emergency to employ the military to build the wall.

“Squandering American taxpayer money on a wall may satisfy a segment of the President’s political supporters, but it will not solve the real border security challenges facing our Nation,” Thompson wrote of Trump’s signature campaign promise.

A spokeswoman for the department said Nielsen has been in contact with House and Senate leadership about the subject.

“The Secretary testified before a House Committee two weeks ago on this topic where she answered dozens of questions from members. She has been meeting with House and Senate leadership where she has repeatedly sought to provide them with vital information pertaining to the humanitarian crisis on the border. We look forward to receiving the reported request and will review it,” Katie Waldman said.