The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly considering a proposal that would separate woman and children who illegally cross the border from Mexico into the U.S.
The new policy would allow the U.S. to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings, while their children would be put into protective custody under the Department of Health and Human Services until they can be taken care of by an appointed guardian or an American relative, Reuters reported Friday.
Government officials, who have been briefed on the proposal, told Reuters that the proposed policy hopes to deter mothers from entering the U.S. with their children illegally. A Homeland Security official added that the department was “actively considering separating women from their children.”
"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,” Homeland Security said in a statement to Reuters. “With safety in mind, the Department of Homeland Security continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said the move could cross into violating human rights rather than protecting the U.S.
"Bottom line: separating mothers and children is wrong," Cuellar said in a statement.
Congressional Republicans have argued that migrant mothers are willing to risk their lives and the lives of their children because of the catch and release policy the U.S. currently has. Many of the mothers who arrive in the U.S. from the treacherous journey through Central America often pay smugglers to guide them across the rocky land.
Homeland Security Chief John Kelly ordered last week that immigration officials should deport or prosecute parents who facilitate the illegal smuggling of their children across the border.