US security chief grilled by Congress

Kirstjen NielsenImage copyright
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Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is testifying before Congress where she has called illegal migration a worsening “chain of human misery”.

Lawmakers are grilling her on whether there is a national emergency at the southern border and other issues there.

Mrs Nielsen is the highest-ranking Trump official to be questioned by Congress since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.

She also said she did not know how many children are currently in detention.

The hearing before the Democrat-controlled House Homeland Security Committee began on Wednesday with Mrs Nielsen saying that “vulnerable populations – especially children – are coming into Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody sicker than ever before”.

What did she say?

She also said that there have been more apprehensions of illegal migrants in the first six months of this year than all of last year put together.

One million people are currently expected to arrive at the US southern border this year, she said.

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Media captionUS child migrants: Five things to know

When asked about the deaths of two young migrant children in DHS custody last year, she said that her department is awaiting a medical examiner’s report before releasing their own findings.

But she told Democrats that she had no idea when the medical examiner’s report will conclude, and said they are currently investigating “extenuating circumstances” including the condition the children were in during their journey to the US.

When asked what policies have recently been implemented to assist young migrants, Mrs Nielsen said that any girls over 10 are now receiving pregnancy tests by US immigration agents, due to the high rate of sexual abuse during the passage.

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Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson is chairing the hearing

Mrs Nielsen repeatedly referred to the situation at the US border as a “crisis”, and “emergency”, and a “direct national security threat” during her testimony.

Republican Congressman Clay Higgins, said that the number of migrants that came to the US-Mexico border last month – 75,000 people – is the same as how many US soldiers landed on French beaches to liberate the country from Nazi Germany.

He called the situation “a D-Day every month”.

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Media captionThe sound of migrant children separated from parents

Mrs Nielsen also said that a deal is being reached with Central American countries to prevent people from smuggling, and forming caravans to travel to the US in groups.

She said she was aware of parents being deported back to their home country without their children, but said that those parents had been given the opportunity to take their kids with them but chose not to.

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