Last month Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly proposed deporting all undocumented immigrants to Mexico, regardless of their countries of origin. Now he has come up with another controversial anti-immigration proposal: Separating the parents of undocumented immigrants from any children that they bring with them if they arrive on the Mexican border.
"Let me start by saying I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States," Kelly told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday.
"We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors," Kelly added. "We turn them over to HHS and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in kind of foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States. Yes I'm considering, 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."
The vast majority of undocumented immigrants who come with children are mothers, with the standard procedure being that they are held in family detention centers until being released prior to their asylum hearings, according to The Daily Beast. While Kelly isn't wrong in noting that human rights abuses like sexual assault are common for immigrants fleeing dangerous countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, critics are concerned that forcibly separating mothers from their children will only inflict severe psychological trauma on both. The immigrants passing through Mexico to get to the United States do so because the alternatives in their own country are much worse, which may not make this an effective deterrent.
Although President Barack Obama opened a number of detention centers in 2014 to deter Central American refugee immigration, a federal judge in California later ruled that it was illegal to detain children in a jail-like setting regardless of whether are joined by their parents. This is why the current stays in family detention facilities rarely last more than a few days.