A new report has surfaced that shows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is putting some serious consideration into separating undocumented mothers from children after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Reuters, which broke the story, DHS officials have confirmed that the law enforcement agency has been discussing a proposal that would separate adults from children as they wait to either be granted or denied asylum.
As it stands, children can only be detained by DHS for 72 hours before they have to be turned over to the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS). The 72-hour window is in place to guarantee that the best interests of the child are taken into account, according to American Immigration Council.
The new policy being considered would change how family detentions have been handled under federal law. A federal appeals court ruling made it illegal for DHS to hold children in detention centers, so families were released and allowed to stay in the U.S. until their cases were solved. Under the new potential policy, children will be handed over to HHS and placed in protective custody, allowing for the government to keep the parents in detention centers for the duration of their asylum pleas or deportation hearings.
DHS claims that the move to separate children from adults, including parents, is to make sure that children are not exploited.
“The journey north is a dangerous one with too many situations where children – brought by parents, relatives or smugglers – are often exploited, abused or may even lose their lives,” reads a DHS statement sent to Reuters.
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The statement continued: “With safety in mind, the Department of Homeland Security continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey.”
During the Obama administration, a similar measure was considered but was ultimately scrapped because of the consequences of separating children from their parents.
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“It was never implemented because the idea was that it was too detrimental to the safety of the children to separate them from their parents, and the thinking was it was always preferable to detain the family as a unit or release the family as the unit,” Leon Fresco, a former DOJ official in the Obama administration, told CNN.
The proposal would go directly against a campaign promise by President Donald Trump.
During a campaign interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press with Chuck Todd“, Trump explicitly said, “We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go.” The proposal, which is still in the works, seems to go directly against that promise.