(CBS NEWS/CBSLA) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen are among the speakers addressing a gathering of the nation’s sheriffs in New Orleans for the National Sherrif’s Assocation annual conference on Monday.
A release from the association says topics will include “key law enforcement issues” and immigration. The issue of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border has sparked outrage over the administration’s handling of children of immigrants at the border.
Secretary Nielsen told the group of sheriffs “don’t believe the press” and that children detained “are very well taken of.”
The secretary blamed members of Congress, the press and advocacy groups for spreading “misinformation” about the family separation process, saying that DHS is simply “enforcing the laws passed by Congress” and that her agency would “not apologize for doing our job.”
“Surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body that makes the laws rather than change them asks the body that enforces them not to enforce the law, that cannot be the answer,” she said.
Nielsen added, “Illegal actions have and must have consequences, no more free passes, no more get out of jail free cards. In communities every day, if you commit a crime police will take you to jail regardless of whether you have a family.”
“We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family,” said Nielsen.
She also had a message for a “select few” in the media: “This department will no longer standby and watch you attack law enforcement for enforcing the laws passed by Congress.”
From the day he signed a memo changing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in April, Sessions has been unwavering in his ownership of the directive and his commitment to enforcing it despite widespread outcry.
Under the current policy, anyone suspected of crossing the border illegally faces criminal prosecution. Children traveling with adults are separated from their families and taken into U.S. custody. The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that nearly 2,000 children have been placed into shelters over a six-week period. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime while the parents are.
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