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Trump team schemed for a year to tear families apart — and lied about it

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) uncovered ‘compelling new evidence’ about the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

By Dan Desai Martin - January 23, 2019
Kirstjen Nielsen

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is demanding the FBI open a perjury investigation into Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over her lies about the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

In a letter to the FBI, Merkley said “compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.”

Nielson has a long and documented history of lying about the family separation policy she oversaw. In June 2018, Neilsen definitively stated, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

Neilsen told the same lie — under oath — to Congress. But in April 2018, Neilsen signed a memo outlining the Trump administration’s so-called “zero-tolerance” border policy, knowing full well that such a policy would lead to family separations.

And the new evidence from Merkley provides even more evidence of Neilsen’s deceptiveness. The 2017 memo from top officials at both the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department outlined “policy options to deal with illegal immigration at the border.” The memo specifically lays out a policy to “separate family units,” and states that “an upshot of such policies will be the ‘substantial deterrent effect,'” according to the Washington Post.

The new documents show that officials were “exploring family separation policies as a deterrent for illegal immigrants a full year” before Neilsen’s congressional testimony, according to Roll Call.

For there part, the DHS is claiming Neilsen never committed perjury. “As Secretary Nielsen has said publicly and testified multiple times, DHS has never had a blanket policy of separating families in custody,” Katie Waldman, a DHS spokesperson, said in a statement.

The family separation policy led to thousands of children — that we know of — being ripped away from their parents. The creation of baby jails and the subsequent images of kids in cages sparked national and international horror.

The cruelty of the policy, and the callous attitude toward the potential harm inflicted on young children, was lambasted by religious leaders as immoral and led former retired four-star general Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, to compare the practice to Nazi Germany.

A recent internal report by the Department of Health and Human Services uncovered potentially thousands more children who were separated from their families than previously acknowledged. According to the Washington Post, “the report said the practice appears far more common under Trump and began nearly a year before administration officials publicly acknowledged it.”

In light of all the evidence, Merkley called on the FBI to “immediately investigate whether Secretary Nielsen’s statements violate 18 U.S. Code § 1621, 18 U.S.C § 1001, or any other relevant federal statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress.”

The heartless policy of the Trump administration was bad enough. It’s high time the Trump administration officials who lied about the practice are held accountable, and Sen. Jeff Merkley is leading that effort.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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