DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says 'loopholes' in law separate - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says 'loopholes' in law separate families at the border

Posted: Updated: Jun 18, 2018 4:42 PM
In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018. In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018.
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WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted Monday that President Trump's administration does not have a specific family separation policy, but separations do happen as a result of enforcing immigration laws riddled with "loopholes."

"Congress needs to fix it," Nielsen told reporters during a specially arranged briefing at the White House. "It's a problem; let's fix it."

Current federal law doesn't allow the government to hold entire families together, she said, though lawmakers in both parties said enforcement is at the administration's discretion.

"There is no law that says the Administration has to rip children from their families," said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in calling for Nielsen's resignation.

More: Detention crisis -- what we know now

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said "family separation is wicked," and should not be "the default U.S. policy. Americans are better than this."

Amid the criticism, as well as televised images of crying children taken from their parents, the White House sent out Nielsen to speak with reporters, delaying the news briefing for nearly four hours as the homeland security secretary returned from giving a speech in New Orleans.

Nielsen said most of the children in federal custody were sent into the United States without their parents. Those who are detained are treated well, she said, provided with meals, medical care, and educational services, as well as video conferences with parents.

"Illegal entry is a crime," she told reporters at the White House, and parents who engage in it are putting their children at risk.

She also said migrants claiming asylum will not be separated from their families if they make the claim at a specified "port of entry."

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