Kirstjen Nielsen: Rep. Gutierrez Used “Fighting Words,” It’s “Not Professional”
Posted By Ian Schwartz
On Date December 21, 2018
FNC’s Shannon Bream spoke with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen about the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the latest on the border wall on Thursday’s edition of ‘FOX News @ Night.’
“First of all, calling me a liar, fighting words, it’s not appropriate, it’s not professional, it’s not accurate,” Nielsen said of her exchange with Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
“So, I think my whole exchange, I say I found to be offensive but mostly offensive on behalf of — again, 240,000 men and women who get up every day to enforce the law. The law says, if you come here illegally, it’s a crime. That’s what we did. We tried to enforce the law,” Nielsen told FOX News host Shannon Bream.
Transcript, via FOX News:
SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS: Well, few know more about the policies like the new one announced by DHS on immigrants seeking asylum or the border wall, than Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She joins us now on this very critical day for the president’s immigration policies.
Madam Secretary, great to have you with this.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Great to see you.
BREAM: OK. So, let’s talk about what was rolled out today. A bit of this is that people seeking asylum, coming through Mexico, to the U.S., not Mexicans but other — citizens of other countries, they will be turned around to wait in Mexico —
BREAM: — while there asylum is pending here in the U.S.
NIELSEN: That’s exactly right. It will do a couple of things. One, it will decrease immigration, which is what we have been trying to do. Two, it will help us focus on those who have a legitimate claim. Three, it will reduce those that don’t because what we can find, as you know, one of their biggest concerns is we’ve had a 3,000 percent increase in asylum claims and, unfortunately, only one and ten are actually granted asylum.
So, this will help reduce data and let us focus on those who need it, but reduce the overall illegal flow.
BREAM: OK. So, reading a little bit about concerns about how this will work in Mexico, the logistics there. “The Washington Post” has a piece saying: because asylum cases can drag on for months or years, it’s unclear how migrants would remain safe with access to food and shelter, or how they would access legal services. It also remains unclear how Mexico will sell the deal to a domestic audience which has resisted the idea of embracing tens of thousands of Central American migrants.
Also in that piece, “Washington Post”, they say this: Adam Isaacson, a border security analyst at the Washington office on Latin America says: Wait times for asylum hearing are now routinely exceeding 1,200 days. That’s three years. Is Mexico really prepared to host hundreds of thousands of people for that long while they wait for overworked U.S. asylum judges to get to these people’s cases?
NIELSEN: So, what we did was we took this as unilateral action, as you know, under statutory authority. But, of course, we let the Mexicans know we were going to do it and we’ve been having discussions for quite some time.
So, in return, they’re offering shelter, they’re offering education, they’re offering medical care. They also, by the way, are offering asylum. And this is important because, again, for those who really need asylum, we encourage them to do it as soon as possible in that journey.
They are also offering work permits and in some cases, very specific jobs, about 20,000 job offers that they collected and offered. So, what we expect that the numbers will actually go down substantially because you need asylum, you can get it in Mexico. If you need a job, you can get a job.
So, we are really talking only about a very small portion who will continue to feel that they need to get asylum in the United States.
BREAM: Because this was a unilateral action, how confident are you in their ability and their willingness to do this long term when we are talking about years of a wait for people?
NIELSEN: Yes. So the next up, of course, is more legal paperwork. So, we’ll work on a technical agreement with them, but we have our teams working on that now.
I’m very optimistic. They take human rights very, very seriously. They take protection of migrants very, very seriously. That is why we are calling it “The Migrant Protection Plan” on our side.
So, we will work together to make sure that those are abided by.
BREAM: Is any of this in concert with a $10.6 billion in aid packages announced earlier this week through, I believe, the State Department helping Central America and some specific portions of Mexico as well? Is that part of the sweetening the pot for them that they would want to help on an arrangement like this?
NIELSEN: Yes, I think the aid is something that President Lopez Obrador campaigned on, something he feels very strongly about. It’s something that we’ve been talking to the Mexicans and Central Americans about for a quite some time because as we reduce the pull factors in the United States, we also want to reduce the push factors there — so, to help stabilize.
So, they are happening at the same time. But they’re both part of larger conversations we’ve been having for quite some time.
BREAM: OK. So, this is just the latest rounded what has been going on at the border. I mean, for months, there have been tensions there, there have been all kinds of events that we’ll talk about but the president has talked about wanting this to be a tougher crackdown on immigration, illegal immigration in the border.
BREAM: Here’s what he told our Chris Wallace.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you happy with Kirstjen Nielsen at DHS?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I like her a lot, I respect her a lot, she’s very smart. I want her to get much tougher and we’ll see what happens there. But I want to be extremely tough.
BREAM: Is this part of the getting tougher? How’s the relationship now?
NIELSEN: Well, first of all, this is not something that happened overnight. So, this is something that I’ve been working very hard on for a very long time, most of the time that I’ve been secretary of DHS.
But the president and I have a great relationship. Look, he’s making it clear every day, he will protect Americans, he will secure the border, and he wants to make sure that we all do everything we can to do just that.
BREAM: OK. You know there will be legal challenges to this. There have been to any number of things this administration has done. We are waiting on numerous fronts, a number of different legal venues and courts that are ruling.
We have a ruling out of a federal judge here in D.C., Judge Sullivan, who was pushing back on this idea that people cannot come here saying they fear gang violence or domestic violence. He said that violates the law and you are going to have to take those people.
NIELSEN: So, we are reviewing that court case. What that was, was that was a case that former attorney general took, basically was a matter of A.B. (ph) is the one that he’s talking about.
But this goes to the heart of asylum. Asylum is a discretionary grant and it’s made to be made one by one. So, we should review one by one.
So, what the attorney general in that case was trying to reverse is giving groups asylum based on a claim. Now there is a particular social group that is one of the five reasons for asylum. So, if you qualify there, you qualify there. But when it comes to those particular issues that were raised in that case, he was suggesting, let’s look at them one by one and make sure they meet the law.
BREAM: OK. So, let’s talk about the wall itself. Obviously, it is the center of a contentious, raging battle on Capitol Hill over funding and whether or not it’s going to trigger a government shutdown. But you know there are critics on the right who think the president is not standing up to something that he said repeatedly during the campaign that he would do, which is get this wall built, it’s going to be a physical, it’s going to happen.
“Breitbart” writing this: The big, beautiful border promise during the 2016 campaign is being built as a see-through barrier of seal slats.
They point to the president’s descriptions of that. They go on and call it Trump’s concession and rhetorical turnaround. It comes after Hill Democrats use their leverage on the business first leadership of the GOP and among Trump’s Hill outreach deputies to repeatedly block construction of his favorite concrete wall.
Has a wall change? Is the president making a concession? How would you characterize it?
NIELSEN: First of all, I would say walls work. We know they do. We’ve seen it in San Diego. We’ve seen in (INAUDIBLE). Everywhere we have that physical infrastructure, we see illegal immigration dropped by 95 percent.
The president will continue to advocate for what the men and women of the border patrol say they need. And this is what it is. It’s a physical infrastructure along with the technology and personnel that go to it.
Important thing to understand as there is 2,000 miles of border. So, what we need in one location is not the same as what we needed another location. In fact, we have a floating wall. We would not need that and other places. Some places, we have a levee wall.
So, the wall isn’t changed, it’s just going to meet the operational requirements as described and articulated by the Border Patrol agents and that’s what the president continues to advocate for. We’ve got to get the wall done.
BREAM: OK. Much more to discuss. Stick around. Thank you for the first portion, but we’re going to have a whole lot more with the secretary. We’ll be right back.
BREAM: We are back now with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She joins us on this very critical day for the president’s immigration policies.
And you saw there, Madam Secretary, we’re just discussing the case in California where somebody had been deported multiple times, had numerous criminal allegations in the past — firearms, drugs, violence, all kinds of things, not held on an ICE detainer because the law enforcement officials there in California say they can’t because of century city policies, gets out, wreaks havoc.
What options do you have?
NIELSEN: You know, this is — actually, this is a particular issue that’s of great concern to both the president and Department of Homeland Security. We actually are the largest federal law enforcement agency in our country. We have thousands and thousands of sworn officers.
This concept of cities pitting federal law enforcement against state and law enforcement is not — not only puts the safety and security of our officers, our officers at risk, but the communities themselves that they are trying to serve.
Sanctuary cities is an example of a misunderstanding of what it means to cooperate with the federal government. In this case, all we ask is that when you are releasing a convicted criminal, you let us know. We will then come pick them up in a secure and safe area, we will not put the community at risk, we’ll not put the officers at risk and then we will be able to do our job.
So, there’s — it’s a misunderstanding but it’s turned into a political fight. I hope that we can continue to work with state and local governments to work through this. But it is vital that law enforcement be able to work with law enforcement.
BREAM: OK. So, let’s talk about the case of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal. It’s captured headlines. Everyone seems horrified across the board about the fact that this young girl died.
Now, there were reports that her father told the Guatemalan consulate, he has a very specific native dialect. I mean, Spanish is not his first language. But he said to the consul that he thanks the officials who help them, he wanted to think that first responders, he thought at least according to the consul that everything that could be done was done for her despite her passing.
There are number of attorneys now who have stepped up and have said that they are representing this family and they have questions. That includes one of them, the attorney Enrique Moreno, he says, they said that Jakelin and her dad were not given water during the roughly eight hours they were detained at the Antelope Wells port of entry waiting to be taken to the Border Patrol station. He says the attorney that he doesn’t understand why Jakelin, whose father said she was sick and vomiting, wasn’t examined before she was taken on a bus from New Mexico to Antelope Wells port of entry to the Border Patrol station about 90 miles away.
NIELSEN: So, I can speak to that but I can tell you is that the father told our agents on the scene. Unfortunately, that this was part of a large group, about 160 migrants. They approached the border in the middle of the night, unfortunately in the middle of nowhere. We have three Border Patrol agents who were able to apprehend them.
I should pause and say, we saved 4,200 migrants each year because often the border patrol might not be there as they make this journey, in this case, the middle of nowhere. So, what we do know is when the father’s first spoke to the agents, he did not indicate, he said there was nothing wrong. Food and water was provided.
Then later, we had two busloads, because keep in mind, this is 90 miles from any infrastructure. So, the first one that went was UACs. That’s our protocol, we take care of them first. This child was with her father, who did not indicate there was any distress.
Once the child got on the bus, he did indicate that she was vomiting. Then the Border Patrol agent did everything they could to take care of her. They got her as quickly as possible to an area where she could receive medical care, actually revived her twice. They enable the father to get to the hospital. He didn’t fit into the air flight because it was small.
BREAM: As she was taken.
NIELSEN: As she was taken.
And, you know, I really — I commend them. It’s an extraordinary difficult job. This has had them very hard. It’s a terrible tragedy. One death is way too many.
But the CBP really did everything they could to care for this child.
BREAM: Can you tell us what will happen next, as far as the investigation? Who will oversee it? What kind of timeline there will be for some concrete answers?
NIELSEN: Sure. So, CBP itself immediately opened up its own investigation that now has been transferred over to the inspector general for the department. So, CBP will be working with him, as will we come I do find out what we can do to strengthen procedures. But again, middle of nowhere, middle of night, no infrastructure, makes it extraordinarily difficult to give care to somebody who unfortunately in this case turned out to be very sick.
BREAM: We want to ask of your reaction, word that the defense secretary is going to retire. It’s common that there are changes to an administration a year or two end (ph). Can you tell us anything about your plans or reactions to his decision to leave?
NIELSEN: Secretary Mattis has proven to be an incredible partner of ours. We’ve signed a monumental memorandum of agreement between our departments to work on cybersecurity together. He certainly has been very supportive of our border security mission.
He helps us with our counterterrorism mission, as we look to fight the terrorist abroad so they don’t come here. So, the home game and away game, we work very closely together. I have complete admiration and respect for him and have so enjoyed working with him.
BREAM: I want to ask you about something else. I mean, this headline, I’m going to be frank, it struck me as a bit sexist, from the “Washington Examiner.” It says: Nielsen expected to be forced out of DHS when protector Kelly leaves White House. They quote someone saying they don’t expect that after General Kelly departs that you would stay.
That was just my initial reaction as a woman, that you would need a protector or someone to keep you safe at the White House. How do you respond to something like that?
NIELSEN: Well, first of all, I’m still here, still doing my job, still doing the job that I swore an oath to do. It is a bit sexist.
But you know, I find this fascination with all the politics at the White House and intrigue to just be disappointing, because there’s a lot of work we have to do at DHS. We have 240,000 men and women every day wake up to secure this country. So, I will continue to support them and continue to secure the homeland.
BREAM: And part of your job is being on the Hill. I want to play a little bit of what Congressman Gutierrez had today talking about shame on everybody who was doing anything to separate children and families and give you a chance to respond. Here’s what he said today.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Shame on everybody that separates children and allows them to stay at the other side of the border fearing death, fearing hunger, fearing sickness. Shame on us for wearing our badge of Christianity during Christmas and allow the secretary to come here and lie.
BREAM: Your response?
NIELSEN: Well, I think I said in the hearing — first of all, calling me a liar, fighting words, it’s not appropriate, it’s not professional, it’s not accurate.
But, secondly, again, we had no policy to separate families to the extent that parents were separated from children, just as in the Obama administration, just as in the administration before, happens in three instances, when the child welfare is at risk, secondly, if the parent has committed a crime, needs to be taken to a criminal area where we wouldn’t want to take a child, or it’s a person who is not related to the child, which unfortunately we have.
We’ve had a great increase in fraud because they know if they grab a kid, in some cases, they can come to the border, the smugglers and traffickers teach you that you can get in.
So, I think my whole exchange, I say I found to be offensive but mostly offensive on behalf of — again, 240,000 men and women who get up every day to enforce the law. The law says, if you come here illegally, it’s a crime. That’s what we did. We tried to enforce the law.
BREAM: Well, we know that many of them are on the front line spacing dangerous situations every day and they do this willingly. So, we thank those who are willing to come up and serve their country in that way.