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Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan agrees to testify on child separations before House committee on July 18

Key Points
  • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan agrees to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration.
  • The Democrat-led committee announces Wednesday that McAleenan, who had previously served as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection under President Donald Trump, will testify about the child separations on Thursday, July 18.
  • The House panel will also hold a separate hearing with the internal watchdogs for the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments this Friday.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan speaks during a news conference at the Immigration and Customs Headquarters, on June 28, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has agreed to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration.

The Democrat-led committee announced Wednesday that McAleenan, who had previously served as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection under President Donald Trump, will testify about the child separations on Thursday, July 18.

The House panel will also hold a separate hearing with the internal watchdogs for the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments this Friday.

That hearing will delve into a slew of damning allegations from lawmakers and immigration advocates about the conditions of detention centers housing migrants and the conduct of Border Patrol agents in those centers and on social media.

Multiple lawmakers who visited those facilities will speak at the hearing, the committee said. They will include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who last month accused the government of running "concentration camps." Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, will also testify, the committee said.

"The American people are deeply concerned about the inhumane detention centers at the border and the number of children separated from their families," Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in the release. "We look forward to hearing about the steps necessary to correct this crisis manufactured by the Trump Administration."

Trump's former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had issued in April 2018 a "zero tolerance" immigration policy that resulted in a spike in the number of children being separated from parents who crossed the southern U.S. border illegally. Trump in June of that year signed an executive order that he said would keep families together during detention.

But the U.S. reportedly continued to separate families well into 2019, and McAleenan told ABC News on Sunday that 350 migrant children remain in CBP custody — down from 2,500 on June 1, he said.

McAleenan also pushed back on a flurry of reports of filthy conditions, overcrowded spaces and inadequate food and hygiene supplies for migrants at detention centers.

On Wednesday, NBC News reported that migrant children being held in Arizona had alleged sexual assault by officers, as well as verbal abuse and retaliatory punishments. NBC cited "dozens of accounts by children held in Arizona collected by government case managers" that it had obtained.

CBP said in a response that "the allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated," adding, "It's important to note that the allegation of sexual assault is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General."