The United States is considering separating immigrant children from their parents in a bid to deter illegal migration, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday.
He would do "almost anything" to deter people from Central America getting on this "very, very unsafe network" and going through Mexico, he said.
Children would either be put into the care of relatives or, if none reside in the USA, into the hands of the Health and Human Services department, according to leaked notes from the meeting.
"Yes I'm considering (that), in order to deter more movement along this terribly risky network". "They will be well cared for as we deal with the parents". We turn them over to HHS and they do a very, very good job of putting them in kind of foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States.
To comply with the order, the Obama administration implemented a policy of holding women and children together at family detention centers for no more than 21 days before releasing them.
The government has struggled since 2014 to deal with a larger number of mothers and children coming to the USA from Central America without authorization, many of them seeking asylum based on violence in their native countries.
Some immigration advocates have criticized the DHS' proposal to separate children from their parents or guardians.
With a backlog of more than half a million cases, it can take years for a case to be completed in federal immigration court. That relatively quick release, Trump administration officials say, encourages parents to bring children with them, in what officials consider an exploitative fashion.
Over the past five years, since Mr. Obama announced his 2012 deportation amnesty for young adult illegal immigrants known as Dreamers, some 227,000 unaccompanied children and 245,000 people traveling as families have been caught at the border.
The Obama administration never divided asylum-seeking families, citing children safety concerns.
Homeland Security officials have been trying to curb the flow of families since 2014 when a flood of both children and families overwhelmed immigration officials. The adults could be kept in detention, and the children could be moved elsewhere under protected status, possibly with family members already in the country or to state protective custody such as child protective services. "Who knows what they're going to do with them?"