Open the Government, an independent watchdog group, has obtained a memo that contradicts a major claim made by Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Nielsen has repeatedly affirmed there is no policy of family separation, as in these tweets of June 17, 2018:
Using a Freedom of Information Act request filed in conjunction with the Project On Government Oversight, Open the Government has discovered that a memo dated April 23 outlining a family separation was addressed to Nielsen, and signed as approved. Because the signature is redacted, it’s not clear who signed the memo—whether it was Nielsen or some other official.
The memo calls for the criminal prosecution of parents who cross the border and states that Homeland Security can “permissibly direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted.” Equally important, the memo makes no provisions for family reunification. As Open the Government observes, “the memo does not discuss any plan for reuniting separated families, or the harmful effects of separation on children, nor does it reflect any input from the government agencies who would be responsible for caring for the separated children.”
To date, 182 children remain separated from their parents, despite a court order demanding reunification. As Esquire’s Jack Holmes notes, the new document shows that Nielsen likely lied, and also suggests that reunification or mitigating the effects of the separation policy were not high on the administration’s agenda.