The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday accused three airline carriers of "buckling to a false media narrative" over the recent separation of children from their families at the United States' southern border.
DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton issued a statement saying it's "unfortunate" that the three airlines "no longer want to partner with the brave men and women of DHS to protect the traveling public," claiming that the carriers are "buckling to a false media narrative."
"Despite being provided facts on this issue, these airlines clearly do not understand our immigration laws and the long-standing devastating loopholes that have caused the crisis at our southern border," Houlton said.
The federal agency released the fiery statement after American Airlines and United Airlines asked the government not to use their planes to transfer migrant children who had been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. A third airline, Frontier, said it would not "knowingly allow" the government to use its planes to transfer any of the children.
"Frontier prides itself on being a family airline and we will not knowingly allow our flights to be used to transport migrant children away from their families," Frontier Airlines said in a tweet. "At this time, we are not aware if Frontier has been used for this purpose."
Various companies and corporations have faced pressure online this week to explain their relationship with the federal government amid widespread backlash against the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that has led to at least 2,000 children being separated from their families who have illegally tried crossing the border into the U.S.
Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE in April instructed the Justice Department to prioritize the criminal prosecution of individuals attempting to unlawfully cross the border. That order has led to children being separated and detained from their parents while the adults face prosecution.
President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE said Wednesday he plans to sign an executive order ending the separations, which would be a major reversal after the president and top aides for days insisted that only Congress could stop the separation of families at the border.
Lawmakers in both parties have condemned the practice and Senate Republicans have looked at advancing legislation that would stop children from being removed from their parents.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-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 Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE has also been the subject of intense scrutiny over the separations, after denying in a tweet that the separation policy existed before vocally defending it in a press briefing on Monday. The president defended the Cabinet official in a tweet Tuesday.
"Homeland Security @SecNielsen did a fabulous job yesterday at the press conference explaining security at the border and for our country, while at the same time recommending changes to obsolete & nasty laws, which force family separation," Trump wrote on Twitter. "We want 'heart' and security in America!"
The DHS spokesman on Wednesday stressed the work that airlines have done with the Trump administration and others over the years.
"We wish the airlines would instead choose to be part of the solution," Houlton said.
"For 15 years, the Department of Homeland Security has worked diligently with America’s airlines to secure aviation and facilitate the travel by air of millions of Americans and visitors and we will continue to do so."