The Trump administration is said to be pushing a new policy that would separate women and children detained at the border while illegally crossing over into the U.S.
Reuters reports the proposal is now under consideration by the Department of Homeland Security, with Trump on record as being opposed to the current “catch and release” system where migrants captured at the border are freed to reside in the states as the legal process plays out.
Officials have admitted part of the reason for the proposed change is to discourage mothers from illegally entering the U.S. with their young children.
The new policy would also allow the government to keep parents under lock and key as they contest their sought- after deportations. Children would be held in protective custody by Department of Health and Human Services officials.
Between Oct. 1, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017, roughly 54,000 children and their guardians were captured illegally crossing the border, nearly double the number of people captured over the same time frame a year before.
Congressional Republicans have long contended women are willing to make the dangerous trek with their children because they are assured if captured they will be quickly released from detention and given court dates set years into the future.
In a statement, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose district includes about 200 miles (320 km) of the border with Mexico, slammed the proposal, insisting, “bottom line, separating mothers and children is wrong. That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights.”
Since the days of his campaign run against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump has made being hard on immigration a major part of his platform.
Since taking the Oval Office, Trump has used his executive powers to sign into law a measure that designates several other categories of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the states for priority deportations, including those who have been “charged with any criminal offense” or those who have “committed acts that constitute as a chargeable offense.”
“Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety,” the order states. “This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States.”
While stressing that overstaying a visa stay is not a criminal act in and of itself, legal experts counter that those who do so could fall under a vague clause in the executive order stipulating that undocumented immigrants who “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter” are also a priority for deportation.
“This is scary stuff for America’s legacy of immigration, for business and for our hospitality,” said Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney who formerly represented Trump Models, the Miss Universe Organization, and First Lady Melania Trump.
“The DHS deportation force has a track record of racial profiling and excessive force abuses, and expanding it will further erode the rights of millions of people who call our safe border communities home,” said Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
“Locking up asylum seekers who pose no danger or flight risk is unconstitutional and benefits nobody except private prison corporations and politicians looking to score rhetorical points,” he added in a statement. “We will see the Trump administration in court if they go down that road.”
[Featured Image by Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty Images]