The Trump administration has made its stance on immigration quite clear — and they're considering resorting to some tactics that other administrations haven't used in the past. This could amount to Trump essentially ripping immigrant families apart to stop people from crossing the border illegally, a strategy that immigrant advocacy groups have called draconian and inhumane.
As of right now, this idea is only part of a proposed measure designed to cut down on illegal border crossings, and it hasn't actually gone into effect yet. What it entails, though, is a proposal to split up families if they are apprehended while attempting to cross the border without documentation. Adults and children would be sent to separate detention facilities, or the children could also be sent to live elsewhere in the U.S. with a so-called "sponsor" — which could be a parent or another family member.
The New York Times reports that even some heavily anti-immigration officials in the DHS don't like the idea of splitting up families. The Trump administration supports the proposal, according to the report, although it's still waiting for the recently appointed Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, to sign off on it. Nielsen, who replaced Gen. John Kelly when he became the White House chief of staff, was previously a White House aide, so it's entirely likely that she will agree with the White House on the appropriateness of the measure.
The administration has reportedly begun looking for new solutions to the issue of immigration since the number of illegal border crossings, which initially went down at the beginning of the Trump administration, has begun to creep up again, alarming administration officials. While February, March, and April of 2017 saw some of the lowest numbers of apprehended illegal crossings in years, they've been steadily climbing up since May.
Gen. Kelly proposed the same idea when he was at the head of the Department of Homeland Security back in March, saying that it was an effort to "deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network" and that children separated from their families and put in specialized juvenile detention centers would be well taken care of. "We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors," Gen. Kelly said on CNN. "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." The idea, various DHS officials explained, was to use this proposed measure as a strategy to deter families from even considering an illegal border crossing because of the threat of being separated from their children.
Already, organizations that advocate for the rights of immigrants have submitted a letter to the DHS arguing that this measure "is so fundamentally unconscionable it defies countless international and domestic laws on child welfare, human rights and refugees." The letter, which rests its arguments on decades of human rights law both in the U.S. and internationally, says that "It is cruel and unlawful to separate family members for the sole purpose of deterring migration; such separation deprives family members the ability, given their detention, to locate each other and be reunited."
It's still necessary to remember that this change has not been passed yet, and the possibility remains that it will not become the administration's official policy. This particular strategy, Gen. Kelly said earlier in the year, might only apply in cases where officials believe that the child was in danger because of the actions of the parent. If it does go into effect, there will surely be lawsuits testing its constitutionality to follow.