ICE Director Says Immigrant Parents 'Ultimately the Ones That Are Responsible' for Being Separated From Their Children

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director Matthew Albence has blamed immigrant parents for agents separating them from their children, arguing that they are responsible for being detained.

"The parents or the individuals that are breaking the law are ultimately the ones that are responsible for placing their children in this situation," Albence said in a pre-recorded interview with NBC Nightly News, which will air in full on Tuesday evening.

The immigration official made the comment after he was confronted with a video of a crying child whose father was detained by ICE in a large raid in Mississippi last week. Gabe Gutierrez, who was interviewing Albence, asked what he would say to the young girl.

EXCLUSIVE: Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence sits down with @gabegutierrez and reacts to the now-viral video of an 11-year-old girl crying for her father who was detained during the recent Mississippi immigration raids.

Watch more of the interview tonight on @NBCNightlyNews.

— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 13, 2019

"I don't think I would speak to the little girl. I would speak to the parents and I would speak to the community at large. Look, I'm a parent, most of our officers and agents are parents – some of the most difficult things that we have to do in our jobs to enforce the laws involve the separation of parents from children," he said.

Pointing out that some ICE agents deal with separating families on a daily basis, he argued that the agency conducts "operations with professionalism, with compassion and with humanity."

"And we try our best to minimalize the impact on the innocent people of the situation," he insisted.

Albence's answer is similar to comments made by ICE's former acting director Thomas Homan in an interview with Fox News last week. America's Newsroom co-anchor Sandra Smith played a clip of the young girl crying and asked Homan how he would respond to her tears.

"Immigration enforcement is always controversial and emotional, but you know what? The blame needs to be placed on the father," Homan replied. "Her father came to this country illegally, he brought his child here illegally. Whether or not she was born here, he put his family in the position of being here illegally in violation of our laws."

A boy and father from Honduras are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 near Mission, Texas John Moore/Getty

The hardline immigration policies of President Donald Trump's administration have faced significant backlash since he entered the White House. In the wake of the mass Mississippi raid last week – which targeted 680 individuals at their places of employment – many have questioned why ICE has gone after immigrants whose only crime is having entered or remained in the country without following the legal process. Analysts and critics have also questioned why the government is targeting the undocumented workers and not prosecuting those who employ them.

Despite Trump's policies, and his constant criticism of undocumented migrants, his company, The Trump Organization, has reportedly employed many individuals without legal status to work in the U.S. for years. A recent report by The Washington Post revealed that at least eight of the president's properties have regularly employed undocumented workers.