- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood on Wednesday accused the acting Homeland Security secretary of an intentional policy to let children die at the border, sparking an outcry from Republicans who demanded the lawmaker be punished for the accusation.

Given a chance to recant, she instead doubled down on her remarks,

“People keep dying and so this is obviously a question of more than resources,” the Illinois congresswoman told acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing. “It’s intentional. It’s a policy choice being made by this administration.”

Furious Republicans said she’d gone too far.

“You cannot impugn the character of the witness by stating he intentionally murders children,” said Rep. Mike D. Rogers, Alabama Republican.

He demanded her words “be taken down,” a procedure for branding someone’s language out of bounds.

Democrats resisted, with committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson saying he thought the congresswoman’s sentiments were appropriate.

He tried to shut down the punishment, but Republicans demanded a vote, and because they had more members present, they won, 9-7.

Ms. Underwood began her five minutes of questions to Mr. McAleenan in an antagonistic fashion, repeatedly demanding to know if he was aware of the psychological consequences of separating children from families. She said it was equivalent to beatings.

The acting secretary said he’d read the literature, but said Homeland Security does not have a policy of separating children.

She then pointed to children who either made the treacherous on their own or were brought by parents to the U.S., and who died here after the crossing. She put their blood on Mr. McAleenan’s hands.

“At this point with five children dead and 5,000 separated from their families it’s intentional,” she said. “It’s a policy choice being made by this administration.”

Mr. McAleenan was outraged.

“That’s an appalling accusation, he said.

He said Homeland Security asked for money weeks ago and Congress has yet to pony up. He also said the administration has pleaded for years for changes to the law to stop the incentives that draw the families and children north. Democratic leaders have said they won’t act on those changes.

Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican who was present for Ms. Underwood’s accusation, said it was an insult to Mr. McAleenan, who was so disturbed by the 2001 terrorist attack that he applied on Sept. 12 to join the FBI, and ended up eventually at Homeland Security.

“This is a sad day for America and the Democrat Party,” Mr. Green said.

But Ms. Underwood got backing from immigrant rights advocates who said they draw the same conclusion that the Trump administration is intentionally endangering children.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition called Mr. McAleenan’s anger “pure theater,” and an attempt to distract from tough questions.

“We grieve with the families who have lost their children and demand acknowledgment, accountability and justice for these young lives lost, as well as a different approach at the border that treats asylum-seeking families with dignity and humanity,” said Katie Adams, co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

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