Lawmakers: DHS chief asserts family reunifications on track


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The chief of the Homeland Security Department has told members of Congress that the government is “on track” to meet Thursday’s court-ordered deadline of reuniting hundreds of migrant children with their families, lawmakers who met privately with her said.

Wednesday’s assertion by Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was greeted with open disbelief and anger, according to many of the roughly 20 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – all Democrats – who attended. The private, hourlong meeting seemed to achieve little toward dousing lawmakers’ criticism of how children taken from their parents are being handled.

Nielsen also told the group, “I am not a racist,” according to two of the lawmakers. One of them, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said she made the remark after he told her she worked for a “racist regime.” Gutierrez said she cited her friendship with the first lady of Honduras and other Latina women.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, tweeted that she told the lawmakers: “I am not a racist. Nobody believes families should be separated.”

A spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department was asked to comment and did not immediately provide one.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a deadline of today for reuniting children age 5 and older who have been held by the government since their families were caught entering the country without authorization.

As many as 2,551 children age 5 and up were separated from their families and 1,187 children have been reunified with parents, guardians or sponsors, the government has said. The exact number still separated is unclear. The government has been releasing hundreds of families to faith-based groups, which are caring for them.

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