Nielsen defended the policy in a series of tweets on Sunday night; earlier in the weekend, her agency said it had separated almost 2,000 children from adults over the course of six weeks at the USA southern border. "Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get out of jail free cards", she emphasized.
Trump had previously tried to blame the policy on Democrats, but over the weekend his Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kristjen Nielsen, flat out denied that such a policy existed. The current practice is in place because of the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, which could be rescinded at any time.
Sessions cited a Bible passage to defend the administration's policies after the separations sparked widespread outrage and criticism from religious leaders and immigration advocates.
There is no law that requires parents be separated from their children at the border.
Traffickers and others can pose as families in order to game the system, Nielsen said, and they have become good at it.
"The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility, it won't be", Trump said. "We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country". If the Democrats would sit down, instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly, good for the children, good for the country, good for the world.
Homeland Security officials say families who are seeking asylum at the border are also allowed to stay together.
Trump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen in particular, when told that the number of people arrested for illegally crossing the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month.
Nielsen also said the USA asylum laws in general needed to be reformed to end "systemic abuse" and "fraud".More news: Compulsive video game-playing could be mental health problem
"The children are not being used as a pawn, we are trying to protect the children", she said.
While the secretary claims the needs of these children are being met, the Associated Press reported Monday a 16-year-old girl had to change the diaper of a four-year-old girl because they were left alone. "That can not be the answer".
"These children are not entering at points of entry, but unsafe places", Sessions said.
Secretary Nielsen tried to suggest the problem was with the Dept. of Health and Human Services, and not DHS. "The security of the family provides critical mental, physical and emotional support to the development and wellbeing of children", said the statement. At one point, NY magazine's Olivia Nuzzi played audio, published by ProPublica earlier, that recorded border patrol agents mocking weeping child migrants separated by their parents.
"We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are, in fact, a family", she said.
"Particularly, today I'd like to call attention to the facts that the number of these cases involving Russian Federation is growing rapidly". Do you know someone else we should interview for this story?
Unauthorized border crossings have always been illegal, but previous administrations did not criminally prosecute all border-crossers.
Asylum seekers, Nielsen said, should follow the established process. CNN is looking into reports that these individuals are being turned away there, as well.
"If an adult enters at a port of entry and claims asylum, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry".
At a conference Monday morning, Nielsen doubled down and said her department is just "enforcing the laws passed by Congress" and would "not apologize for doing our job".