December 01, 2023

Congressman Castro Grills Trump-Era DHS Chief on Family Separation

WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, grilled Chad Wolf, who led the Department of Homeland Security under Donald Trump, about the prospective resumption of family separation in a future Trump administration.

During the hearing, Wolf, who now leads the America First Policy Institute, a right-wing group widely seen as an incubator for a second Trump administration, argued that family separation should be considered as part of the administration’s approach and that “all options should be on the table,” including the use of military force against Mexico.

Child Separation

Congressman Castro holds up photos of children separated from their families during the Trump administration. To download the full video, click here.

"This week, so-called mainstream House Republicans welcomed the architect of Trump's family separation policy to testify before Congress about his recommendations for our immigration system. Chad Wolf’s full-throated endorsement of family separation is a dark reminder of the monstrous policies that would restart under a second Trump administration. From Texas’ new “Show Me Your Papers” law to family separation, today’s Republican party is actively embracing a campaign of relentless brutality against immigrants that betrays our nation’s founding values,” said Congressman Castro.

In 2019, Congressman Castro introduced the Families Belong Together Act, bicameral legislation to reunite the thousands of immigrant children and families who were separated by the Trump Administration. Four years later, the Biden administration announced the terms of a settlement that would provide humanitarian parole and access to housing, medical, and legal services to families affected by Trump-era family separations. Nearly 1,000 children separated under the Trump administration have still not been reunited with their families.

Transcript of Congressman Castro’s Exchange with Chad Wolf

Congressman Castro: Mr. Wolf, during your time in the Trump administration at DHS, you oversaw the design and implementation of the monstrous and cruel family separation policy, tearing children away from their families, many of whom are yet to be reunited with their parents.

Here are a few examples of those kids that you ripped from their families. [Shows photo]

You suppressed a DHS report about the dangers of white supremacy. Your tenure at DHS was marred with significant ethical and legal concerns. Your communications during January 6 mysteriously disappeared. There are serious ethical questions about your relationship with a lobbying firm.

You explicitly defied Congressional subpoenas to testify in front of the then-Democratic Congress. Yet, you've shown up today voluntarily and feel comfortable testifying here today.

Federal courts even ruled that your tenure as acting secretary of DHS was illegal.

In your testimony, you describe many of President Biden's efforts as “illegal.”

But I find it ironic that we should trust you on what is lawful, given your extensive disregard for American law. So, let's discuss one of those egregious policies you implemented that was eventually struck down by American courts.

Mr. Wolf, you were one of the key architects of the Trump administration's efforts to separate families at the border. Children as young as four months were mercilessly taken from their parents, with almost 1,000 children still not reunited with their families years later, even though the Biden administration set up a task force to reunite them. I'm a father of three kids, a nine-year-old daughter, a seven-year-old son, and an 18-month-old daughter. Do you have kids, Mr. Wolf?

Chad Wolf: I do.

Congressman Castro: What you did is unimaginable, inhumane, and despicable. And quite frankly, I'm surprised the chairman invited you to be here today. Earlier this week when you were asked about revisiting family separations, you said that “all options need to be on the table.”

As we all know, we're having an important debate about immigration in the Congress and for the presidency. So, I'd like to ask you an important question. I'd like a yes or no answer. I'd like you to be a straight shooter. You are from Texas, after all. Would you advise this or a future administration to once again separate families, as the Trump administration did?

Chad Wolf: So, I will stand by my statement that you, I think, quoted earlier, that all options should be on the table. But what I would say is that there are a number of effective programs, including MPP and others, that I'm sure we'll talk about that address the situation along that border. And the crisis that we faced in ‘18 is very different than the crisis that we face today.

Congressman Castro: Alright, thank you. So that means that you do think that it should be considered and possibly used.

Chad Wolf: That’s not my response.

Congressman Castro: For the record here, I'll remind you, Mr. Wolf, that what you did is inhumane.

I'll be requesting that the Biden administration release all documents related to family separation policy, and we'll settle the matter once and for all on your involvement in that policy.

Also, I want to ask you another important question. It's often the case that folks who give testimony before Congress, folks who served one administration, if there is a second administration, they will often serve again. That's true for Democrats and Republicans. There's a chance that President Trump is elected to office that you might be considered to serve in the administration again, regardless of what my opinion or the opinion of others here may be with you. So, Mr. Wolf, do you or your organization support the use of military force in Mexico, even without the consent of the Mexican government, as many leading Republican officials have called for?

Chad Wolf: I have been on record as supporting all hands or all options should be on the table when we look at --

Congressman Castro: So that’s a yes.

Chad Wolf: The threat of cartels and the violence against Americans.

Congressman Castro: So, you might counsel a yes?

Chad Wolf: I think all options should be considered. This idea of taking options off the table for a variety of different policy issues that we have addressed makes no sense, and I should say, all the other things that you leveled against me are all just absurd on their face. I’m happy to address any of those.

Congressman Castro: Mr. Wolf, listen, your America First Policy Institute is closely related with President Trump. So, I just have one final question for you and your colleague. If you wish to answer it, what happens to the America First Policy Institute if President Trump goes to prison?

Chad Wolf: The America First Policy Institute will continue to be around for hundreds of years.