The Department of Homeland Security is considering a measure that would separate women and children crossing illegally into the United States from Mexico, according to three government officials who spoke to Reuters.
The change in policy would allow the government to keep parents in detention while awaiting asylum hearings, while their children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services (a form of detention the department refers to as the “least restrictive setting,” whatever that means). Prolonged detention of children is currently forbidden by a federal appeals court ruling, and families are generally released from detention as they await the results of the asylum process.
According to the Reuters article, published Saturday, the proposal, if ratified, would act as a deterrent for mothers hoping to bring their children to the US, or so officials says. The DHS also cited migrant safety concerns among their reasons for considering the measure, in a statement to Reuters, saying, “The journey north is a dangerous one where children—brought by parents, relatives or smugglers—are often exploited, abused or may even lose their lives.” To this I’d add that they might soon face an increased danger of being separated from their loved ones and jailed.
Probably not coincidentally, the Trump administration is also planning a huge expansion of facilities that detain immigrant families, according to documents obtained by MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. While we’ve known for a while that the Trump administration would pump up these facilities, All In was able to report a more accurate scope on Friday, calculating a 500 percent increase in these centers’ holding capacity. Asylum Division Chief John Lafferty wrote last month in notes obtained by All In that he had found room for 20,000 extra beds to facilitate the indefinite detention of immigrants seeking asylum.
Reuters also reported in a separate story on Saturday that parents who immigrated to the US illegally are scrambling more than ever to secure guardians for their children in the event that they are suddenly deported.
Friday, Buzzfeed posted absolutely heartbreaking footage of an undocumented father being apprehended in front of his disconsolate 13-year-old daughter as he drops her off at school in Los Angeles. In other words, measures to deport and detain immigrants continue to be implemented, with haste.