An official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE) had to explain to “confused” Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) today that immigrants who cross the border illegally have broken the law.
Officials from ICE, the Border Patrol, and Health and Human Services (HHS) appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to answer questions about the Trump administration’s family separation policy and their efforts to reunify children with their parents at the border.
When Hirono asked ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Matthew Albence if he would be willing to send his own child to an immigration detention facility, Albence said she was “missing the point.”
“Those individuals are there because they have broken a law,” Albence explained.
“They have broken a law only as deemed so by the president with his …” Hirona argued.
“No, ma’am,” Albence broke in. “They’re there for violation of Title 8 of the U.S. Nationality Act. USC 1325 — that’s illegal entry — that’s both a criminal and civil violation. They are in those FRCs [Family Reunification Centers] pending the outcome of that civil immigration process. They have broken the law.”
“My understanding is that under ‘zero tolerance,’ these are no longer civil proceedings but in fact criminal proceedings,” Hirona insisted..
“They were … criminal proceedings when the Border Patrol prosecuted them, but at the conclusion of that process — once the individual came into ICE custody — they would go through administrative proceedings,” Albence explained patiently.
“I’m confused,” Hirona said helplessly.
Albence spelled it out for her: “The criminal proceeding is the individual being prosecuted for the criminal violation of improper entry,” he said.