Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson voiced deep frustration at the Department of Homeland Security’s handling of separated families at the southern border, saying the lack of progress in steps to reunite children with their parents “boggles my mind.”
“We’re not making progress in terms of reunification,” Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, told CNN on Monday, labeling the government’s “lack of information” as “unsatisfactory.”
“If they got a process, they’re not revealing the process to me,” Johnson said. “These are human beings. … I’m just not getting the answers I would have thought they should have on the tips of their fingers. It boggles my mind. I just would assume that the connection in all these things are tracked – and that the reunification would have been a relatively simple matter.”
Asked if he had confidence in Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Johnson said: “I just want my questions answered.” He signaled a willingness to hold a hearing with administration officials to get answers to his questions.
Johnson’s criticism is significant because he’s a close ally of the Trump administration, and wields a powerful committee gavel that could invite more scrutiny of the administration’s mishandling of the situation at the border, which has drawn widespread criticism. He suggested his own manufacturing company did a better job tracking the use of plastics through the supply chain than the US government is doing in tracking migrant children separated from their parents.
While he acknowledged challenges in ensuring children are not given to the wrong adults, he said the Trump administration had failed to provide lawmakers with solid answers in a conference call last week.
“I have not been satisfied with the information that we’ve gotten,” Johnson said. “I’m not particularly satisfied with that conference call that we had with other senators” either.
The government is scrambling to comply with a court order and come up with a reunion process by the end of the month for thousands of immigrant parents and kids it separated at the border. A judge ordered nearly two weeks ago that officials reunite the families, many of whom were separated a result of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.