Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly confirmed that the department is considering separating children from their parents at the border.
“We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” “We turn them over to (Health and Human Services) and they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States.”
He continued: “Yes I’m considering (that), in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents. … It’s more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network.”
A senior DHS official had previously told CNN that the department was considering a proposal to separate children from adults when they are trying to enter the country illegally at the southern border.
The official told CNN the proposal is meant to deter the exploitation of children.
Currently, when adults enter the country accompanied by children, they are generally released into the US and able to stay in the country, pending disposition of their cases, the official said.
The proposal would allow US immigration officials to separate children from the adults they came here with. The adults could be kept in detention, and the children could be moved elsewhere under protected status, possibly with family members already in the country or to state protective custody such as child protective services.
In a statement to CNN last week, DHS spokesman David Lapan said the agency “continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey.”
“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,” Lapan said at the time.
Leon Fresco, a former DOJ official in President Barack Obama’s administration, said the previous administration considered, but ultimately rejected, the move.
“It was never implemented because the idea was that it was too detrimental to the safety of the children to separate them from their parents, and the thinking was it was always preferable to detain the family as a unit or release the family as the unit,” Fresco said.