Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin on Wednesday questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about her department’s separation of children from their parents at the border. The hearing was Ms. Nielsen’s first since Democrats took control of the House this year.

The questioning came during a Homeland Security Committee hearing on border security. Slotkin specifically asked Nielson if the Trump administration initiated the "purposeful separation of families for the express purpose of deterring families from coming to the United States." When Nielsen denied that and said the whole purpose of the policy was to "increase the consequences for those who break the law," Slotkin pushed Nielsen. “When you saw those pictures of babies in cages, what did you do? What did you do to just scream bloody murder up the chain to the President to say, ‘I cannot represent an agency that is forcing its border patrol to do this?’ What did you do?”

Nielsen responded by saying she "went to the border. I spoke to the men and women there. I looked at the facilities myself. I talked to HHS to understand, and visited their facilities as well, to understand the care they provide the children in their custody." Slotkin answered that it felt like it "wasn't enough". Other Democrats on the committee criticized Nielsen for not adequately keeping track of migrant children who were separated from their parents last year.

The New York Times reported that three investigations into the Trump administration’s immigration policies had been opened by the Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general, John V. Kelly, who in a separate hearing said one investigation is looking into the department’s systems for tracking migrant children separated from their families. Another is examining whether asylum-seeking families are being separated at the border while a third is reviewing whether parents facing deportation were given the option of bringing their children back home with them.

Slotkin also asked what actions Secretary Nielsen and her department are taking to enhance security at the northern border. Slotkin said she was concerned about Border Patrol vacancies at the northern border and movement of agents from the northern border to the southern border to fill staffing gaps. Nielsen said those transfers were temporary and based on the need her department determined had greater priority. She also gave full support to President Trump’s request to declare a national emergency at the southern border in order to access funding to build a border wall, citing new data from her department showing that the number of immigrants entering the United States illegally had doubled from a year ago.

Picture courtesy of C-SPAN (JK)