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WATCH: Nielsen Clueless On How Family Separation Policy Hurts Families

In a House committee hearing Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared entirely unprepared for the grilling she received over the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. One of the most glaring gaps in the knowledge that the person in charge of homeland security should have was about how separating children from their families produces what psychologists call “toxic stress.”

In fact, she said she was “not familiar” with the concept that news outlets widely reported about since summer 2018, when studies and profiles about the traumas suffered by separated migrant children began coming out. PBS posted a widely-shared report on just what toxic stress does to the brain and how this is particularly damaging to young kids whose brains are in critical development stages.

“In a situation where children are separated from their parents for a long period of time, they remain on high alert, and their bodies endure prolonged and severe toxic stress as a result. That interrupts the brain’s architecture at a critical time of development, when neural circuits — the pathways necessary to carry information to and from the brain — are forming rapidly, at a rate of more than 1 million neural connections each second in infants and toddlers. Stress hormones block those neurons. This can lead to delayed development in reason, learning and emotional development.”

You would think that something overseeing that exact situation would have at least heard of the idea of toxic stress, but not Kirstjen. While being questioned by Rep. Lauren Underwood, Nielsen said she was unaware of the term and didn’t know that it can interrupt brain development. She did not explain why she had such a critical gap in knowledge directly related to a crisis she’s in charge of, opting instead to repeat over and over that kids need to be with their families and that the system needs to be fixed.

Then fix it, Kirstjen. That’s your job.

She also repeatedly attempted to make excuses for the problem she and her boss, Donald Trump, created by saying that if asylum seekers just don’t seek asylum and stay in their dangerous, poverty-stricken and war-torn countries, then their kids wouldn’t be taken away and traumatized. At one point, she claims that the kids are not in cages in spite of the photos we’ve all seen of kids in cages.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman pressed Nielsen on this, bringing up the chainlink fence and asking her how the “detention space” is different from what you would keep a dog in. Nielsen’s answer? “It’s larger.” Literally.

Among the other embarrassing revelations during the hearing were the fact that Nielsen has not been in any contact with the families of the kids who have died in U.S. Border Patrol custody, she doesn’t know much at all about asylum law, and she has no real answer to how a border wall would stop drugs from being smuggled into the country when they mostly come through ports of entry.

All in all, Nielsen appeared to be drowning in the blue wave. If anybody still somehow liked her before today, they don’t now.

She’ll be in plenty of children’s nightmares for many years to come.