DHS Chief Staying ‘for the Long Haul,’ Trump Right to Be ‘Frustrated’
U.S. suffered a 203 percent increase in unlawful border crossings, yet Congress won't put partisanship aside to protect America's borders
A 203 percent annual increase in illegal immigrants happened because “they know the loopholes” and “they’re exploiting them” thanks to Congress’ inaction, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News host Laura Ingraham during an exclusive interview Tuesday.
“We have a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018, I think by family units overall. It’s a huge increase,” Ingraham said to Nielsen on “The Ingraham Angle.” “Why? What’s going on?”
Nielsen replied, “Some of the loopholes are [that] they know if they cross between the ports of entry that nothing will happen. If they bring kids, they’ll be released. The kids will be released in 20 days under a court case, right?”
“If they’re a criminal, they will serve a little bit of time, but under a different court case we have to release them in six months back into the communities, the criminals,” Nielsen continued. “If they’re other than Mexican, we can’t put them in expedited removal if there’s children involved.”
“So they know — they know better than Congress. They know better than most of us,” Nielsen warned. “They know the loopholes. They’re exploiting them.”
Although President Donald Trump elevated immigration enforcement and border security to the forefront of national discourse during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, members of Congress have largely been unwilling to cooperate with that agenda.
As a result, illegal immigrants "seeking to abuse the system" are allowed to do so freely, Nielsen admitted.
"It's a broken system. We've got to work with Congress. Congress has got to close these loopholes," Nielsen pleaded.
When Ingraham asked Nielsen about reports that she threatened to resign last week after Trump lashed out at her for the increase in illegal immigration, the DHS secretary admitted Trump is "frustrated, and rightly so."
"I mean, can you imagine? Here's the president of the United States saying, 'I want to secure this country. Americans must come first.' And Congress is saying,' Yeah, we don't have time. We're busy and we've got to go on recess,'" Nielsen said.
Nielsen denied threatening to resign Tuesday after a reporter shouted a question at her following her appearance at a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
During the hearing, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and other Democratic senators grilled Nielsen about why illegal immigrant children are separated from their parents. Nielsen said she was just enforcing U.S. immigration laws.
"But as you know, for every sob story, we have a 73 percent border assault increase. We have people like Kate Steinle. I mean, where is the compassion for the flip side of this conversation?" Nielsen asked Ingraham.
The 32-year-old's Steinle's death at the hands of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate on July 1, 2015, propelled the political debate over sanctuary city policies and immigration enforcement measures to the forefront of national dialogue during Trump's campaign.
Steinle died after Garcia Zarate, who had been deported from the U.S. five times, fired a stolen .40-caliber handgun. The bullet ricocheted off a San Francisco pier's concrete walkway and struck her in the back.
"How sad is it that the Congress of the United States can't pass a law to simply increase penalties for criminals who have been deported who come back?" Nielsen asked. "The House passed it. We can't get the Senate to pass it."
Ingraham noted that "one of the other things that I think is very frustrating to the American people" is repeat border crossings from multiple deportees "who have jumped the border multiple times, have been deported, come back into the country and yet they still get the 'Oh my gosh, what are you going to do about the poor immigrants? Our communities are being shattered because of this enforcement!'"
"But again, the media and the Democrats are hitting you for shattering communities," Ingraham told Nielsen. "And I think those who are charged with actually enforcing the law are always made to be the bad guys. And yet the American citizens elected Donald Trump because they wanted that situation reversed. It's 'America First.'"
As it stands now, the U.S. immigration system "doesn't work," Nielsen emphasized, noting that she shares Trump's "frustration" with Congress' inaction on fixing loopholes.
"But that's the way that the law works. Once [illegal immigrants] come into the United States, we process them," Nielsen said. "So we have asked Congress to fix this loophole. It's a huge, gaping loophole that we need fixed because it's so abused."