John Kelly proposed separating children from their parents to deter illegal immigration last year, and now the Trump administration can't get its story straight

  • An interview from 2017 has resurfaced in which John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, suggested the separation of families could help deter illegal immigration.
  • The White House is now being blasted over the separation of migrant families.
  • On Monday, the current secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said the children who had been detained were “very well taken care of.”

As the Trump administration offers inconsistent justifications for the policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border, an interview from last year has resurfaced in which John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, suggested the separation of families could help deter illegal immigration.

When asked by CNN in March 2017 whether the Trump administration was seriously considering separating migrant children from their parents, Kelly said, “Yes, I am considering in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network … I am considering exactly that.”

He added: “I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States.”

Kelly, now the White House chief of staff, also said any detained migrant children would be “well cared for” as “we deal with their parents.”

In May of this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned that the administration was enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy on immigration in which those found to be illegally crossing the border would be criminally charged.

“If you cross the border unlawfully … we will prosecute you,” Sessions said at the time. “If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”

Last week, it was reported that Homeland Security records show roughly 2,000 migrant children were separated from their parents or guardians in a recent six-week period.

The White House is now being blasted from all sides over the separation of families, including by prominent Republicans.

On Monday, the former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush tweeted that “children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool” and that Trump “should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.”

Amid the public outcry, the Trump administration has falsely attempted to blame Democrats for the policy and has even denied the policy exists.

On Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” But less than 24 hours later, she defended the administration’s immigration policies and said children who had been detained were being “well taken care of.”

“It is important to know that these minors are very well taken care of – don’t believe the press,” Nielsen said in an address to the National Sheriffs’ Association.

“We have to do our job – we will not apologise doing for our job,” she added, going on to say: “This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”

Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, on Monday told “CBS This Morning” the separation of families at the border amounted to a “form of child abuse.”

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