Tuesday, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the fallout from the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal began his allotted time by thanking those Trump administration and agency officials gathered for their patience and for the service of the men and women in law enforcement.
Officials from U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Justice (DoJ) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) attended to answer Senator’s questions.
The policy change —created by President Donald Trump then enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and enforced by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen— resulted in thousands of children being separated from their families. The administration was ordered by a federal court to reunite families, but missed the court imposed deadlines.
Senator Blumenthal’s first question to those panelists gathered —who worked on the implementation and enforcement of the zero tolerance policy— was,
Who here thinks that zero tolerance has been a success? You can just raise your hand if you think it’s been a success.”
All of the panelists kept their hands down.
Watch the full video of Senator Richard Blumenthal’s questions here:
Panel members included the acting chief of USBP and the head of ICE’s deportation unit on behalf of Homeland Security, director of the DoJ’s office for immigration review and the coordinating official of DHHS’ family reunification efforts.
After none of those agency experts endorsed the zero tolerance policy, Blumenthal asked,
Who thinks the family separation policy has been a success?”
Again, no one on the panel of Trump administration experts thought the policy successful. For the Senator’s next question, he asked the panel,
Who can tell me who is responsible, which public official, which member of this administration is responsible for zero tolerance and family separation?”
The panelists remained silent, while some looked down at the table before them or shuffled papers. So Blumenthal asked,
“Can anyone tell me? Whose responsible? Nobody knows?”
Finally, after an extended awkward silence, the DoJ panelist replied that the “zero tolerance prosecution policy, the memorandum, was issued by the Attorney General on April 6, 2018.”
Blumenthal however wanted clarification, asking if Sessions acted alone or if he acted on behalf of the Trump administration.
The DoJ representative only added that the April 2018 memo was an extension of a 2017 memo also signed by Sessions.
So the Connecticut legislator asked instead —since none of the panelists thought the zero tolerance or family separation policies were successful— if anyone stated their concerns, at any time, to anyone.