- In a bid to deter illegal immigration, the administration of US President Donald Trump is planning to separate women and children sneaking together into the country, officials say.
The Department of Homeland Security has been considering the proposal for some time now, Reuters reported Friday, citing three US officials briefed on the plan.
Discouraging mothers from migrating to the US was one of the main objectives authorities hope to achieve by undertaking the measure, the report said.
The new plan would also allow the government to keep parents in detention as they contest deportation or make their cases in asylum courts.
Children, meanwhile, would be put into protective custody by the Department of Health and Human Services in what the officials described as the “least restrictive setting” until their US relatives or state-sponsored guardians take them into care.
This marks a major shift from the current policy, where families of illegal immigrants are generally allowed to stay on American soil until their legal case is processed.
Additionally, current federal laws do not allow for prolonged detention of children.
US Border Patrol agents watch over immigrants who crossed the US-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas, January 3, 2017.
Two of the officials told Reuters that US Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum chief John Lafferty briefed them on the new proposal earlier this month.
Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, said in a statement that the move is "wrong" and amounts to a violation of human rights.
“Bottom line: separating mothers and children is wrong,” he said. “That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights.”
Last week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly ordered immigration agents to deport or criminally prosecute parents who facilitate the illegal smuggling of their children.
Before his January 20 inauguration, Trump promised to deport 2 to 3 million migrants with criminal records after taking office.
After being sworn in, Trump took several controversial steps against immigration by ordering a wall on the border with Mexico and authorizing a crackdown on US cities that shield illegal immigrants.
Most recently, the Manhattan billionaire also ordered an entry ban against people coming from seven Muslim countries. The ban was halted after a federal court ruling.