During HSGAC Committee Hearing Rosen Demands Answers from DHS Chief on Department’s False Claims about Family Separation Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), questioned Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on deceptive statements made by members of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to Senator Rosen and Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) during their 2018 visit to the US-Mexico Border. Rosen called out blatant discrepancies between DHS’s public statements and its commitments to the Members about the Department’s ability to reunite separated children with their families, and internal agency emails that reveal that the agency knew it lacked the information needed to connect parents and relatives with children it separated. Rosen also asked McAleenan to commit to telling the truth regarding the Administration’s immigration policies going forward.

“A couple weeks ago, my colleague, Congressman Carbajal, and I, sent you a letter about misleading information we received last year when we visited the border. I haven’t received a response from your Department, but maybe you could provide me with some answers,” said Senator Rosen, per her prepared questions. “Recent news reports indicate that DHS and HHS officials exchanged emails on June 23rd, 2018, acknowledging that the Departments did not have the necessary information to reunite migrant children with their families. In the email exchanges, DHS and HHS admitted, and I quote, ‘In short, no, we do not have any linkages from parents to children. We have a list of parent alien numbers but no way to link them to children.”

“Just two days after DHS’ announcement, on June 25th, 2018, Congressman Carbajal and I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to tour the Tornillo Unaccompanied Minor Facility in Tornillo and Paso del Norte Processing Center in El Paso, Texas, where we were falsely told by leadership in those DHS and HHS facilities that the Departments had the necessary information to reunite separated families,” Senator Rosen’s question continued. 

“In my estimation, your Department has a lot of work to do to regain the public’s trust, including mine. As you lead the Department forward, will you personally commit to me that you will truthfully respond to this committee and that your department will never mislead this body again, no matter the severity of the issues at hand?” asked Senator Rosen.

BACKGROUND: In June 2018, Senator Rosen and Congressman Carbajal traveled together to Texas to visit a facility housing unaccompanied immigrant minors in Tornillo and U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s Paso del Norte Processing Center in El Paso. DHS and HHS personnel assured them that their agencies had the information and resources needed to reunite separated migrant families.

Earlier this month, Senator Rosen and Congressman Carbajal sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar regarding recently unearthed documentation detailing the Administration’s willful deception of Members of Congress and the American people on their plans and capacity to reunite separated immigrant families, as well as requesting detailed information on medical treatment for detained children.