National News

Protesters Confront Homeland Security Secretary at Mexican Restaurant

Posted June 20, 2018 1:03 p.m. EDT
Updated June 20, 2018 1:10 p.m. EDT

Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, got an earful while she was eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington on Tuesday night.

With tensions continuing to escalate over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that separates children from their families after illegal crossings at the border, a group of protesters confronted her.

“If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace,” the protesters shouted, according to video footage of the encounter that they posted on social media.

The group also led chants of “shame!” One protester took issue with the fact that Nielsen was enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant, “of all places.”

Nielsen, who is responsible for carrying out President Donald Trump’s efforts to reduce immigration, did not appear to respond to the protesters during the almost 11-minute video.

Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, a liberal group that works for social and economic justice, claimed responsibility for the protest. A spokesman for the group said that a diner had tipped off the group that Nielsen was eating at MXDC Cocina Mexicana, and that about 15 activists arrived at the restaurant around 8 p.m. He said he believed that Nielsen left after the protesters did.

The group interrupted what a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security described as a “work dinner.”

“While having a work dinner tonight, the secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protesters who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border,” a department spokesman, Tyler Q. Houlton, posted on Twitter. He shifted the focus to Congress, asking people who are concerned about immigration to reach out to their representatives.

Nielsen also took to Twitter on Tuesday night, retweeting a message from Trump saying that she did a “fabulous job” at a news conference Monday. She also posted that she would “work tirelessly until our broken immigration system is fixed, our borders are secure and families can stay together.”

Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America released a statement from a member of its steering committee, Margaret McLaughlin: “We will not stand by and let Secretary Nielsen dine in peace, while she is directing her employees to tear little girls away from their mothers and crying boys away from their fathers at our border.”

She added that while Nielsen’s dinner “may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families.”

In a statement Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for MXDC Cocina Mexicana said that the restaurant’s employees handled “the situation in the best interest of safety for everyone.”

“Our staff, most of whom are Hispanic, have been with our restaurant family for years,” the statement said. “They represent hosts, servers, kitchen staff and upper management who take care of each and every guest who dines with us. We believe that a restaurant is a place to nourish the spirit of humanity, not to break it down.”