When Rep. Pramila Jayapal's (D-WA) turn came to grill Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker during Friday's oversight hearing, she skipped right to the inhumane DOJ policy of ripping children away from their parents, looking for some answers.
Her questions followed the hearing earlier this week conducted by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee, where lots of buck-passing took place, but where officials from HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement admitted they were not advised of the zero-tolerance policy regarding family separation and would never have agreed to it without a fight.
After dodging Jayapal's pointed questions about policy, and his ignorance of what policies were in effect when despite his role as Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III's Chief of Staff, she got to the point.
Jayapal asked Whitaker, “Did you track when you were prosecuting a parent or legal guardian who had been separated from a child?”
His reply was as straightforward as he ever got: “I don’t believe we were tracking that.”
“You were not tracking. That is the correct answer," she shot back. "And when parents are prosecuted and sentenced, they are in DOJ custody, correct?”
Whitaker admitted they were in DOJ custody, transferred to the U.S. Marshal's office, which prompted her to light a hot fire under him for the ridiculous, inhuman, barbaric policy.
“These parents were in your custody, your attorneys are prosecuting them and your department was not tracking parents who were separated from their children," she growled.
"Do you know what kind of damage has been done to children and families across this country, children who will never get to see their parents again? Do you understand the magnitude of that?” Jayapal grilled.
Really, just watch to see how pointed, emotional, angry and sad she was. She spoke for all of us who are shamed by this awful policy.
For his part, Whitaker passed the buck, as he did often. “Congresswoman, the responsibility for the arrests and the detention and together with the custody of the children was handled by DHS and HHS before those people were ever transferred to DOJ custody through the U.S. Marshals," he said. Which of course, did not answer the question about why the children were separated. And why they were prosecuting asylum-seekers. And why they were using the acts of those immigrants turning themselves in to border officials as the crime for which they could take those children.
Still, at least there was a moment where the collective scream from all of us in this country was heard.