Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who only a month ago almost resigned after President Trump reportedly berated her for not being tough enough on immigration, has since become the president’s darling for her vehement defense of an administration policy that separates parents who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border from their children. On Monday, Nielsen stuck to Trump’s narrative of claiming that the so-called “zero tolerance” policy that the administration has used to justify separating detained mothers and fathers from children as young as 1 year old was really the fault of legal “loopholes” that only Congress could prevent. Asked whether disturbing video and audio of young children packed into detention centers was the intended result of the “zero tolerance” policy, Nielsen was defiant.
“[The videos] reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives. The narratives we don’t see are the narratives of the crime,” she told reporters.
Uproar over the policy has reverberated on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum, drawing condemnation from the pope, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and all of the living former first ladies. The pressure on Trump to act mounted heavily this week, and on Wednesday the president reversed course and signed an executive order that will stop families from being separated but will not curb the “zero-tolerance” policy of prosecuting any migrant caught illegally crossing the border.
Protesters have also been going to increased lengths in an effort to push the administration to end the controversial practice. On Tuesday evening, activists from the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America gathered at a Mexican restaurant in Washington D.C. where Nielsen was eating dinner, and asked her how she could “enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States.” According to protestor Jesse Rabinowitz, Nielsen refused to acknowledge them and the activists left before police arrived.
“We will not stand by and let Secretary Nielsen dine in peace, while she is directing her employees to tear little girls away from their mothers and crying boys away from their fathers at our border,” said Margaret McLaughlin, a member of the protest group. “While Secretary Nielsen’s dinner may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families.”
The pressure, it appears, may have had an effect, as President Trump reportedly announced on Wednesday that he would sign an executive order to end the practice of separating families.
Watch video of the protest below.