At a contentious congressional hearing, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) ripped into Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for not knowing how many migrants, like 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, have died in her department’s custody in 2018.
Cicilline began by asking: “Madam Secretary, did I understand you correctly to say that as you sit here today, you do not know how many human beings have died while in the custody of the department that you lead?”
“And you, in preparation for today’s hearing, you didn’t ascertain that number, but you don’t know it today?” he asked.
“I don’t have an exact figure for you,” Nielsen replied.
“Do you have a rough idea?” Cicilline asked.
“Sir, what I can tell you is…” Nielsen began, but was quickly cut off by the congressman.
“I’m talking about people who have died in your custody, you don’t have the number?” he exclaimed.
Nielsen replied, “I will get back to you with the number.”
Pressed by Democrats, DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen can’t provide specific number of how many people might have died in U.S. government custody.
— ABC News (@ABC) December 20, 2018
Cicilline also took Nielsen to task for repeating the lie that there was no family separation policy by producing a signed memo that explicitly approved “the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted” under a “zero tolerance” policy, a memo which Nielsen said she recognized.
“Although you’ve claimed publicly that you didn’t know anything about a family separation policy, and you tweeted about it, you signed off on a memo authorizing this practice describe as zero tolerance, whether you think it’s legal or not, you authorized it,” Cicilline said, and added that “This is a disgrace that belies our values as a country.”