At a White House briefing Monday, Nielsen defended the Trump administration’s newly enforced “zero tolerance” policy for people trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico without visas. Nielsen falsely claimed that federal law requires family separation when parents, even those legally seeking asylum, are held for prosecution. And she said family separation is not a new policy.
So far this spring more than 2,300 child migrants have been separated from parents — many fleeing violence in Central America — and housed, at least temporarily, in federal and nonprofit-run childcare facilities in border states.
At least 13 Democratic lawmakers, citing the falsehoods and the execution of the “zero tolerance” policy that has torn toddlers and teenagers away from mothers and fathers, have called on Nielsen to resign. A number of Republicans have also called on President Donald Trump to reverse the policy.
“So we say you can’t enjoy dinner until you reunite all those families,” one demonstrator at the Washington Mexican restaurant told Nielsen as two men in suits stood between the secretary’s table and a half-dozen or so protesters.
“End Texas concentration camps,” members of the group shouted at her.
In a statement the Democratic Socialists said that police responded and tried to detain demonstrators “to no avail.”
Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement that the demonstrators “share [Nielsen’s] concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border.”
He said the secretary encourages the protesters to “reach out to members of congress and seek their support to close the terrible immigration loopholes that have made our system a mess.”
The secretary exited the restaurant shortly after the demonstrators were shooed out by police, according to the Democratic Socialists.