WASHINGTON – Some Democratic lawmakers have been calling on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign over enforcement of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy under which every illegal entrant is prosecuted, action that has led to parents being separated from their children after attempting to cross the border.
“When I look at the totality of these circumstances the answer is an absolute yes, an absolute yes. Maybe they are not suitable for work that requires empathy and sympathy and the heart of the children; they just might not be suitable for this, and if you are not suitable then you ought to remove yourself,” Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) told PJM during an interview on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said Trump should fire Sessions and Nielsen or they should resign.
“We should see them resign. I would call on them to resign. I would call on the president to fire them; of course, the president right now is part of the problem,” she told PJM.
When asked if he is calling for Nielsen and Sessions to resign, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Trump has been dying to fire Sessions and “I don’t know why he hired him in the first place, but then, of course, that’s Donald Trump who hired him, so we kind of know why.”
“The secretary of Homeland Security has lost all morals when it comes to protecting children and enforcing our immigration laws; it is clear the POTUS has whipped her into shape, so she is marred,” he said, not directly saying if either cabinet official should resign.
Gutierrez argued that the Trump administration is ramping up deportations and being “mean and nasty” to illegal immigrants to get “their voters out” in November and to “retain their dirty filthy power” so they can “go to their voters and say, ‘See how mean and nasty we are?’”
On Monday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) declared in a statement that Nielsen should step down because “the government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart.”
“And the government should have a commitment to transparency and accountability,” she said. “Under Secretary Nielsen’s tenure, the Department of Homeland Security has a track record of neither. As a result, she must resign.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) echoed that call to CNN on Wednesday after Trump paused family separations.
“And with today’s executive order that reverses this policy, we know that it was all lies. That’s why Secretary Nielsen needs to resign. Her credibility has been shredded. I and many other members of Congress no longer have faith in her,” he said.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) declined to say whether or not Sessions and/or Nielsen should resign over the controversy.
“I’m not going to get into any of that… I don’t like the policy,” he told PJM. “I do think a larger immigration bill is absolutely necessary.”
Womack criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for not supporting permanent legislative solutions to family separation and related immigration issues that have been proposed by the GOP.
“The president alone can fix it,” Schumer said of Trump with regard to the zero-tolerance policy.
In response, Womack said Schumer “doesn’t want a legislative fix because he wants to be able to keep this political hot potato alive.”
“It’s flawed logic,” he added. “If you want to really to throw out a narrative of using kids as pawns then I think Schumer is headed down that road.”
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) was asked if he agreed with the calls for Nielsen and Sessions to resign.
“I don’t think anybody likes this. I mean, nobody can look at the pictures and – so we want to fix it,” McCaul responded, referring to the separation of parents from children at the border.
PJM asked McCaul what he thinks would be the best way for the U.S. government to confirm that the adults with minors at the border are their parents and not human traffickers.
“There is fraud going on. You have people that smuggle kids and they say they are their kids and that gives them an avenue to try to stay in the country, and it’s been going on for a long time and it’s just time to fix it. You saw it in 2014, you’re going to see another surge of all these young people coming over with people that claim to be their parents,” he said, adding that the child trafficking issue is lost in the separating families debate. “Yeah, absolutely, the dangerous journey they make, I’ve heard horror stories of sexual abuse to physical abuse… it’s very sad from a human standpoint.”
Schakowsky said the courts should decide if the adult with the child at the border is really their parent or a legal guardian without separation.
“To make a blanket statement that all of these people are somehow, maybe, child traffickers and put 2,000 children in cages separated from their parents and screaming for their parents” is wrong, she said. “This policy is wrong from beginning to end.”
PJM asked Green if separating adults and children at the border could be considered a tool to prevent child trafficking.
“You can investigate without terminating relationships, you can investigate, you can have a child temporarily stand over in one place and go in another and you can, with the proper assistance, you can ask questions. But this is not what this is about. This is about taking children away and putting them in cages,” he said.
Green continued, “A president who can see this occur, knowing he can change it and won’t change it, he’s unfit to be president.”