Trump Officials Told: Raise Hands If You Like Child Separation Policy. None Did

A Senate Judiciary Committee on the reunification of migrant families felt more like an elementary school classroom on Tuesday, when Trump administration officials were asked to raise their hands if they supported the government's "zero tolerance" immigration policies.

Top government officials sat silently as Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asked panel members to raise their hands if they believed the Trump administration's family separation policy had been a success, video of the meeting published on C-SPAN showed.

"Let me ask this panel: Who here thinks that 'zero tolerance' has been a success?" Blumenthal asked. "You can just raise your hand if you think it's been a success."

senate hearing
Top Trump administration officials refuse to raise their hands after Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asks whether they believe the government's 'zero tolerance' family separation policy was a success. From left to right: Deputy Chief of U.S. Border Patrol Carla Provost, Executive Associate Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations Matthew Albence, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Commander Jonathan D. White and Department of Justice Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review James McHenry. C-SPAN

As panel members refused to raise their hands, Blumenthal asked again: "Who thinks that the family separation policy has been a success? Raise your hand."

No one did.

The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" family separation policy saw around 2,500 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

After President Donald Trump was forced to rescind the policy after facing widespread backlash from across the country, the government received a court order to reunify the thousands of families it separated.

Blumenthal demanded to know from Tuesday's panel members who was responsible for the widely condemned policy.

"Who here can tell me who is responsible?" the Connecticut Democrat asked. "Which public official? Which member of this administration is responsible for zero tolerance and family separation?"

Panel members, including the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Carla Provost, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Enforcement and Removals Executive Associate Director Matthew Albence, the Health and Human Services department's coordinating official on family reunification efforts, Jonathan White, as well as the director of the Department of Justice's office for immigration review, James McHenry and others, remained silent.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asks top Trump administration officials to raise their hands if they believe the government's 'zero tolerance' family separation policy was a 'success' at a Senate Judiciary Committee on migrant family reunification on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. C-SPAN

Only one person could be heard offering a response, telling Blumenthal: "You're not going to get an answer to that," before suggesting that anyone who provided an answer would "get fired."

"Can anyone tell me?" the senator persisted. "Who's responsible? Nobody knows?"

Finally, McHenry broke the silence, telling Blumenthal: "The zero tolerance prosecution policy, the memorandum, was issued by the Attorney General on April 6, 2018."

"So, the official responsible for zero tolerance is the attorney general of the United States? Acting, presumably, with the approval of the President of the United States, correct?" Blumenthal asked.

"He is the one who issued the memorandum on April 6, 2018," McHenry said. "It's an extension of an earlier memorandum he issued in 2017."

Read more: No evidence family separation policies deter illegal immigration

Blumenthal proceeded to ask whether any member of the panel raised the question of whether separating families at the border was a "good idea."

White admitted that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the HHS unit responsible for overseeing the care of immigrant children separated from their families, had raised concerns in 2017.

He said concerns were raised over whether the family separation policy was in the "best interest of the child," as well as whether the HHS would have enough bed space to accommodate the influx of children that the ORR expected to receive as a result of the "zero tolerance" plan.