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Kirstjen Nielsen the new face of Trump’s immigration policy.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is standing behind the Trump administration’s decision to ramp up its “zero tolerance” policy for border crossing. On Monday, she casted blame on past administrations and denied that the Trump administration is using children as “pawns.”

“The children are not being used as a pawn, we are trying to protect the children, which is why we are asking Congress to act,” Nielson said.

As pictures and stories of children being kept in detention centers flooded social media this weekend, Nielsen addressed the White House press corps, repeatedly calling on Congress to fix loopholes she said allow this policy to continue.

Despite the calls for Congress to fix the situation, Nielsen repeatedly denied the administration is using children as “pawns” to get immigration reform passed.

Instead, she was adamant the Trump administration is powerless to prevent the controversy.

“This entire crisis is not new,” Neilsen said. “It is the exclusive product of loopholes in our law that prevent illegal immigrant minors and family members from being detained and removed to their home countries.”

In Nielsen’s explanation, the only thing different under the new policy is that the Trump administration is no longer offering anyone any exemptions from the law.

“Here is the bottom line: DHS is no longer ignoring the law, it is enforcing the law as it is on the books …” Nielson said. “DHS will faithfully execute the laws.”

Nielsen was asked if the agency could pause the policy, saying she would “enforce the laws.”

When asked if the policy was cruel, Nielsen refused to answer, again falling back on the answer that it was her job to “enforce the law.”

When further pressed about whether the policy was “child abuse,” Nielsen said the “vast majority” of children in the care of HHS were “sent here alone … we now care for them. We have high standards.” She added that she had visited detention centers.

David Covucci

David Covucci

David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]

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