ICE Chief Says Illegal Immigrant Parents Are ‘Responsible’ For Child Separation

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence defended his agency’s recent illegal immigration raid in Mississippi and argued parents are to blame if they are separated from their children.

“We conduct our operations with professionalism, with compassion and with humanity, and we tried our best to minimize the impact on the innocent people of this situation,” Albence said during an NBC interview that aired Tuesday evening. “However, we have to enforce the law. Every law [enforcement agency] enforces the law against individuals who have broken it.”

Albence’s comments regarded a record-breaking ICE operation that went down earlier in the month. ICE agents raided seven food processing centers across the state of Mississippi on Aug. 7 and arrested 680 people on suspicion of living and working in the U.S. illegally. The number of apprehensions marked ICE’s largest single-state raid in history.


However, the agency has since received significant blowback for the massive operation. A number of protests popped up across the U.S. and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are asking for more information.

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Immigration at the Capitol Hill in Washington

Witness Matthew Albence, executive associate director Enforcement And Removal Operations U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification Efforts” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Allison Shelley

Albence reacted during the interview to a viral video of a crying young girl whose father had been apprehended during the raids.

“Some of the most difficult things that we have to do in our job is to enforce the laws, involve the separation of children,” the ICE chief said. “The parents or the individuals that are breaking the law are ultimately the ones that are responsible for placing their children in this situation.” (RELATED: White House Approves Rule That Penalizes Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits)

Nearly every chief within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has publicly defended the Mississippi raid. Out of the 680 people who authorities apprehended, over 200 carried criminal records, according to DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan. Nearly half of the those arrested were released on humanitarian grounds.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said the crying girl was immediately returned to her mother at home.

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