The Trump administration is weighing a policy that would separate families who are caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as a way to discourage more arrivals, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The policy, developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Officials and other Department of Homeland Security agencies, would place children in protective custody or with an approved sponsor while their parents would be placed in a detention facility to await deportation, officials told the Post.
“People aren’t going to stop coming unless there are consequences to illegal entry,” a DHS official told the paper.
Under current policy, families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are held together at detention centers or released with a court date while awaiting a decision on their deportation.
The idea to separate families had been circulating earlier this year in the DHS, but was canned after the proposal received backlash and illegal migration levels dropped.
According to Customs and Border Protection, when Trump took office in January, the number of people illegally crossing the border dwindled to the lowest number in 17 years.
But the controversial measure is being considered once again after the number of illegal border crossings has climbed back up. In November, immigration authorities apprehended 7,000 family units and 4,000 unaccompanied minors – a 45 percent increase from the previous month according to DHS statistics.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has final approval power, however. DHS officials told the Post that Nielsen has not yet signed off on the plan.