Sarah Fabian, the Justice Department attorney who last week suggested the government should not have to provide migrant children held in federal custody with toothbrushes or soap in some instances, said in a private social media post this week that her argument was taken out of context.
NBC News reported Tuesday that Fabian, a career attorney with the Department of Justice, wrote a private Facebook post to her friends defending her appearance before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, saying she believed the country should “do our very best to care for kids.”
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“I think that many many people believe I was in court Tuesday arguing against providing certain hygiene items to kids,” the lawyer wrote. “I do not believe that’s the position I was representing. … I will say that I personally believe that we should do our very best to care for kids while they are in our custody, and I try to always represent that value in my work.”
Fabian’s post comes a week after an edited video of her appearing before the court went viral. It featured several minutes of a lengthy argument regarding a case that centered on how the government is required to treat migrant children held in federal custody.
At one point, Fabian alluded that basic toiletries, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, might not fall under a law requiring “safe and sanitary” conditions at detention facilities. Three judges listening to the argument appeared flabbergasted by the suggestion.
Fabian tried to explain herself in the private post, which NBC obtained and confirmed with two of her friends on the social network. As a Justice Department employee, her job is to defend the government in cases regardless of any personal beliefs.
“First, I’m not a political appointee, I have been a career employee at my current job since 2011,” Fabian wrote. “I’m not an official of any administration.”
Several news outlets note that Fabian has received death threats since the video was shared and that some of her personal details have been published online. In her post, Fabian — who also said she was not authorized to make any statements in an official capacity — said she was sorry the perception of her argument “struck a nerve.”
“I’m not going to try in vain to fight back against that other than to try to look out for my own safety and to hope that people take it easy on my family,” she wrote. “I think I share many people’s anger and fear at times over the future of our country, and I want to work to make it better too.”
The Trump administration has faced an onslaught of criticism over its handling of migrant children at the southern border. This month, several media outlets reported on the filthy conditions at a border facility in Clint, Texas, where some kids were seen taking care of younger children, wearing soiled clothing and lacking basic sanitation items.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that they had removed most of the 300 children being held at that Border Patrol station. But just a day later, the government said 100 kids had been moved back to the facility.
During the case that Fabian was arguing last week, the judges didn’t appear to agree with her that basic toiletries wouldn’t fall under the provision that children taken into custody be held in “safe and sanitary” conditions.
“It’s within everybody’s common understanding that if you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, that’s not ‘safe and sanitary,’” Judge Wallace Tashima said at the time. “Wouldn’t everybody agree to that?”