TIMELINE: Nielsen’s Tenure of Abuse and Inhumanity

Contact: Rafael Medina, [email protected], 202.869.0390

WASHINGTON – Kirstjen Nielsen steps down as Secretary of Homeland Security with an indefensible legacy of cruel and inhumane civil and human rights violations. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights outlined some of the most egregious actions during Nielsen’s tenure, and calls for a fundamental change in the direction of the department.

“Secretary Nielsen ripped children from their families and placed them in cages, yet Trump doesn’t believe that she was inhumane enough,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “The next Homeland Security Secretary must condemn the unconscionable civil and human rights abuses that she implemented during her tenure – not try to outdo them, as President Trump wishes. The Senate must hold the next nominee to the highest standards and vote down any nominee who will continue Nielsen’s policies of abuse and inhumanity.”

Here are some of the abuses that Nielsen implemented and oversaw during her tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security:

  • December 21, 2017: The Trump administration considers a proposal to separate parents from their children.
  • April 6, 2018: The Trump administration announces the “zero-tolerance” policy, ordering the Department of Homeland Security to prosecute all adult migrants entering the country illegally. The new policy leads to the separation of families.
  • April 11, 2018: Nielsen denies that there is a family separation policy in testimony before the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
  • April 20, 2018: The New York Times reports that more than 700 children have been stripped away from their parents since October 2017 – 100 of which are under the age of 4.
  • May 15, 2018: Nielsen defends family separation before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • June 15, 2018: DHS reports that nearly 1,995 total children were separated from their parents at the border from April 19 to May 31 under the “zero-tolerance” policy.
  • June 18, 2018: Nielsen denies and refuses to apologize for family separation policy.
  • June 20, 2018:Tent cities” are created to house separated children. Additionally, DHS reports that 2,342 children were separated at the border from May 5 to June 9.
  • June 20, 2018: Trump signs an executive order that he claims will end family separation – but instead makes the situation worse by instituting a new indefinite family detention policy.
  • June 27, 2018: A judge orders an end to family separation. The judge rules that children under the age of 5 must be reunited within 14 days and children age 5 and older within 30 days – a deadline that the administration would twice fail to meet (please refer to July 10, 2018 and July 26, 2018).
  • July 5, 2018: DHS officials report that records “linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed.”
  • July 10, 2018: The Trump administration fails to meet the first court-ordered deadline, reuniting only 38 children under the age of 5.
  • July 2018: Office of Refugee Resettlement identifies 2,654 children for reunification with their families.
  • July 18, 2018: Reuters publishes statements of the abuses that Nielsen oversaw during her tenure as DHS Secretary, including: physical and emotional abuse, filthy conditions, and inadequate food and water for children and families in immigration detention.
  • July 26, 2018: The Trump administration fails to meet the second court-ordered deadline, only reuniting 1,442 out of 2,551 migrant children with their parents. On the same day, POLITICO reports that the Trump administration deported 436 parents without their children.
  • July 26, 2018: The Trump administration claims that the parents of 711 children are “not eligible for reunification.”
  • July 29, 2018: Reports reveal that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials coerced parents to sign documents they didn’t understand to deport them without their children.
  • August 2, 2018: The administration argues that it is not responsible for reuniting the remaining children and suggests that non-governmental organizations should do it instead.
  • August 9, 2018: 572 children remain separated from their parents.
  • September 6, 2018: DHS and Department of Health and Human Services announces its plan to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement, which is a set of protections for underage migrant children in government custody.
  • September 14, 2018: The administration violates basic due process to families that it deemed ineligible for reunification.
  • September 25, 2018: An April 2018 DHS memo reveals that the administration was aware that its “zero tolerance” policy would result in family separations.
  • October 10, 2018: DHS publishes the ‘public charge’ rule in the Federal Register. Under the rule, immigrants who apply for a green card or visa could be deemed a ‘public charge’ and turned away if they earn below 250 percent of the federal poverty line and use any of a wide range of public programs.
  • October 12, 2018: The Trump administration considers a new family separation policy.
  • October 15, 2018: ACLU reports that 120 children remain separated from their parents – 50 with parents who were deported and 70 whose parents were still in the United States.
  • October 2018: HHS identifies 13 more children for reunification.
  • November 8, 2018: DHS and the Justice Department announce an interim final rule to block people from claiming asylum if they enter the United States outside legal ports of entry.
  • November 26, 2018: 60 Minutes reports that the administration lied about when the zero tolerance policy started and how long it was in effect.
  • November 26, 2018: Nielsen defends the use of tear gas at the border.
  • December 8, 2018: 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin dies of sepsis infection in CBP custody.
  • December 24, 2018: 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo dies of the flu and a bacterial infection in CBP custody.
  • December 2018: HHS identifies 149 more children for reunification.
  • January 17, 2019: The Office of the Inspector General releases a report revealing that thousands more children than were initially reported were separated from their families.
  • February 18, 2019: 45-year-old migrant dies in CBP custody. Cause of death unknown.
  • February 21, 2019: The Texas Civil Rights Project identifies 272 family separations in McAllen since June 2018.
  • February 26, 2019: The House Judiciary Committee holds an oversight hearing on Trump’s family separation policy. The hearing finds that key officials never expressed concern over family separation, that the administration prioritized prosecuting parents over keeping families together, that no trauma experts were consulted, and that separations continued without child welfare expert input.
  • March 6, 2019: In testimony before Congress, Nielsen lies once again and admits she was “not familiar” with the effects of toxic stress inflicted by family separation.
  • March 6, 2019: Nielsen urges Congress to support the president’s national emergency at the border.
  • March 8, 2019: The court expands a class action lawsuit to include thousands of children who were separated long before the “zero-tolerance” policy was announced.
  • March 18, 2019: 40-year-old migrant dies in CBP custody after being diagnosed with flulike symptoms, liver failure, and renal failure.
  • March 19, 2019: MSNBC reports that the Trump administration tracked the reproductive cycles of migrant girls in custody.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.