CAPITOL HILL – More than 800,000 migrants have been apprehended trying to cross into the USA since October.
The acting head of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan was on Capitol Hill Thursday to answer tough questions about the detention centers where many have been held.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) asked him, "Why was a child of 8 months held for 6 months while his dad was deported 2 months later?"
McAleenan tried to explain that's not the objective. "I specifically directed and the chief of border patrol echoed, that that would not include parents traveling with children under 5," he said. "There must have been another issue with the adult, or a concern that we wanted to follow up on."
But Congressman Connolly didn't buy it. "Isn't there something wrong with deporting the dad and keeping the infant?"
To which McAleenan replied, "By ICE policy, if they're going to remove an adult who arrived with a child, it is up to that adult to chose whether the child should be repatriated with them."
McAleenan also spoke about the tough issues his agency faces.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) asked, "Is it not true that border patrol is dealing with housing migrants rather than policing the border?"
"When you have 40% of your agents doing housing, transportation, and care, the border is less secure," McAleenan said.
Still, Democrat members questioned him on unsanitary and overcrowded facilities. "There is no one in this room that has warned more often or more stridently about the overcrowding and the conditions in our facilities than I have," he replied.
McAleenan put the onus on Congress to help the agency fix the situation.
"I've been asking Congress for help, we did not get the money for single adult beds that would allow us to move those adults out of our custody, from Congress, so I just want to make that point very clear," he said.
McAleenan was also questioned about the photo that went viral showing a father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande. He said what happened to them is a tragedy, and repeated his call for an overhaul of the asylum process.