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

Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLong-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election House chairman asks Secret Service for briefing on COVID-19 safeguards for agents Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments MORE (D-Miss.), the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenWatchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT More than million in DHS contracts awarded to firm of acting secretary's wife: report DHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law 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 TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 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 PelosiTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Trump announces opening of relations between Sudan and Israel Five takeaways on Iran, Russia election interference 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.