Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for six minutes at a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday over Trump administration policies, before promptly leaving when she started to respond to his charges.
Nielsen appeared in front of the committee where she announced a new policy requiring migrants seeking asylum to return to Mexico as their claims are processed. Gutierrez, a fierce critic of the White House's border policies, made a blistering speech during his allotted time.
"The majority on this committee must think you're doing a fantastic job because they've ordered this hearing so you could come before us and look tough and remorseless just in time for the holidays. The remorseless secretary during the holidays," he said.
Gutierrez mocked the questions surrounding Nielsen's job security and said the Trump administration did one thing better than any other: lie.
"I suspect that if you still have our job, which seems to always be a big question, in three weeks, we'll see if you have the same sympathetic questions when you come back," he said.
Gutierrez recounted President Donald Trump attacking Mexicans in his speech announcing his run for president and his claim Mexico would pay for a southern border wall. Gutierrez, who drew criticism in January when he referred to ex-Homeland Security chief Gen. John Kelly as a "disgrace to the uniform," blasted him and Nielsen for their border policies and rhetoric, which he said harmed people like his own parents.
"It's as if you can't see the reality of modern immigration or the contributions of anyone who came from countries other than Norway and other parts of Europe. It's as if you and the Trump administration are blind," he said.
Gutierrez read out Nielsen's tweet in June, during the height of coverage of migrant families being separated at the southern border, where she said the administration did not have that policy.
"Another lie," he said.
Recounting the Gospel story of Joseph and Mary fleeing with the infant Jesus to Egpyt to escape the wrath of King Herod, Gutierrez declared it was a good thing the Trump administration wasn't running a border policy then or it would have doomed Jesus.
"Maybe I haven't gone a lot to Bible school, but I know that part," he said. "Thank God. Shame on everybody that separates children … Shame on us for wearing our badge of Christianity during Christmas and allowing the secretary to come here and lie."
Throughout his remarks, Nielsen said nothing and took occasional notes, sometimes shifting in her seat. When he finished, Nielsen said his accusations of lying were "fighting words."
"I'm not a liar. We've never had a policy for family separation," she said. "I'm happy to walk the gentleman through it again. A policy of family separation would mean that any family I encountered in the interior, I would separate. It would mean that any family that I found at a port of entry, I would separate."
"It would mean that every single family that I found illegally crossing, we would separate. We did none of those. What we did do is uphold the laws that Congress has passed, and we prosecuted those who choose to come here illegally."
As she spoke, Gutierrez got up from his chair and left the chamber. Nielsen smiled and said, "He couldn't be bothered to stay, so I'm happy to tell the rest of the committee."
Nielsen said the administration had shown compassion by working with other northern triangle countries to help migrants "as soon in their journey as possible," blasting the current system that puts them at the mercy of abusers, traffickers, and child exploiters.
"I take personal offense on behalf of the 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security," she said.