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kids in cages

Under the Trump administration, federal immigration agents have detained migrant children in facilities critics have described as "cages." (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

After Locking Migrant Children in Cages, DHS Chief Tells Congress, 'They're Not Cages'

Asked how a cage in a federal detention center differs from a dog kennel, Kirstjen Nielsen said, "It's larger."

Jessica Corbett

After months of outrage over the Trump administration detaining migrant children in "cages," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted to members of Congress on Wednesday, "We don't use cages for children."

"I've seen the cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist."
—Rep. Bennie Thompson

At a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday, Nielsen took questions from Democratic lawmakers enraged over the administration's policies of forcibly separating families to deter future asylum-seekers and locking up migrant children in facilities described as cages by reporters, lawmakers, and immigrant rights advocates.

Since last summer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has maintained that the U.S. government does not detain migrants in "inhumane fenced cages," despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. Faced with intense lines of questioning from Democrats on Wednesday, Nielsen stuck to DHS's party line.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee's chairman, repeatedly asked Nielsen whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an arm of DHS, was "still putting children in cages."

"Sir, we don't use cages for children," Nielsen said. "To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage."

"I've seen the cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist," declared a visibly frustrated Thompson. The secretary continued to claim, "Sir, they're not cages."

"We're not going to go through the semantics," Thompson told her. "I saw the cyclone fences that were made as cages—and you did too. All you have to do is admit it. If it's a bad policy, then change it. But don't mislead the committee."

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) also grilled Nielsen about federal immigration officials detaining migrant children, asking her how the cages used in detention centers by the Trump administration differed from dog kennels:

WATSON COLEMAN: What does a chain-link fence enclosed into a chamber on a concrete floor represent to you? Is that a cage?

NIELSEN: It's a detention space, ma'am, that you know has existed for decades.

WATSON COLEMAN: Does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside? Is it different?

NIELSEN: Yes.

WATSON COLEMAN: In what sense?

NIELSEN: It's larger. It has facilities. It provides room to sit, to stand, to lay down.

WATSON COLEMAN: So did my dog's cage.

Watch:

Critics quickly pushed back against Nielsen's claims, with MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff sharing his report from a facility in Texas last summer:


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'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·

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