House Democrats to put Trump’s child separation policy back under microscope

Judiciary, Homeland Security Committees announce oversight hearings for border policy

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will appear before the House Homeland Security Committee in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Homeland Security Department’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border will be back in the spotlight during a House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 12.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler and fellow Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the subcommittee on immigration and citizenship, announced a lineup of witnesses Monday in a joint press release. Those scheduled to testify Feb. 12 include the chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and top advisers from the Justice Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Last summer, the administration separated more than 2,600 children from their parents between April and June before President Donald Trump ended the policy and a judge ordered the families to be reunited. The cost of caring for the children, and reuniting them with their families, reached $80 million, according to an HHS report released in November 2018.

In that same November report, the department revealed that 150 migrant children were still in U.S. custody.

Those children had not yet been reunited, because their parents had been deported or left the U.S. Other parents were deemed unfit to take custody of their children because they either posed a threat to the child or had a criminal record.

“It is clear that the Departments were either incompetent, or grossly negligent, in the policy’s implementation, which only compounded the trauma inflicted on innocent children,” Nadler and Lofgren said in a joint statement Monday.

“Many questions still remain and it is time for a full accounting of this shameful policy,” they said.

The announcement comes the same day as House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., announced DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen agreed to testify before his committee in March.

Democrats have accused Nielsen of perjury for denying that family separation was a deliberate administration policy despite a leaked memo that appears to show department officials discussing separation at the border as a deterrent to illegal border crossings.

Dean DeChiaro contributed to this report.

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