DHS head: Separating migrant families 'not on the table'

DHS head: Separating migrant families 'not on the table'
© Stefani Reynolds

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told NBC onTuesday that separating migrant children from their parents is “not on the table."

McAleenan made the remarks to NBC’s Lester Holt in his first interview since replacing Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role MORE earlier in April.

"We're not pursuing that approach,” McAleenan told Holt.

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McAleenan deferred on whether the family separation policy, which the administration implemented in 2018 before President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE signed an executive order ending it, was effective.

"So prosecuting violations of the law does have a consequence and it does deter behavior but it did not work if you lose the public trust," he said. From “an enforcement perspective, it’s not worth it,” he added.

"A better system, as I've said many times, would allow us to detain families together during fair and expeditious immigration proceedings and getting actual immigration results from courts, so that’s what’s missing from the current situation," McAleenan added. McAleenan said the children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border were “always intended to be reunited.”

The full interview is set to air at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to NBC.

Nielsen was reportedly ousted, in part, because she resisted calls from Trump to resume family separations. Trump has denied any plans to reinstitute the policy, saying “we’re not going to do that” shortly after Nielsen’s resignation.

Before McAleenan assumed his Homeland Security post, Trump reportedly told him he would pardon him if he was convicted of violating federal immigration law.