A group of protesters interrupted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening amid backlash over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on immigration.
Members of the D.C. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America entered MXDC Cocina Mexicana, a glitzy restaurant near the White House, to confront Nielsen as her department faces scrutiny over a policy that has resulted in some children being separated from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border.
"How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you're deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?" protester Jesse Rabinowitz shouts in a video posted on Facebook appearing to show the incident. "We call on you to end family separation and abolish (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)."
The video continues with protesters chanting and making various speeches as Nielsen and another diner sit nearby. The video ends before either side leaves the restaurant.
DHS press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton described the incident as "a work dinner" where they "heard from a small group of protestors who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border."
Rabinowitz told USA TODAY in an interview that Nielsen never acknowledged the group and that they left before police arrived.
In a statement, Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America said police "attempted to detain several members of MDCDSA to no avail." A video posted later shows U.S. Secret Service officers speaking with several demonstrators.
Another video posted on Twitter appears to show Nielsen leaving the restaurant separately.
"As long as 10,000 kids are not with their families, no representative of this administration should have a peaceful dinner," Rabinowitz said.
Through the "zero tolerance" policy announced in April, criminal charges are required for adults crossing the U.S. border without using a legal port of entry. Almost 2,000 children have been separated from the adults they were traveling with through the end of May as a result of the policy.
“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,” Margaret McLaughlin, a member of the socialist group's steering committee, said in a statement. "While Secretary Nielsen’s dinner may have been ruined, it is nothing compared to the horrors she has inflicted on innocent families."
MXDC Cocina Mexicana did not immediately return requests for comment.