Women and children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by US authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to three government officials.
“Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children,” said the officials who have been briefed on the proposal.
If approved, Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services until taken into the care of a legal guardian, meanwhile, the government would be allowed to put parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings.
Currently, families contesting deportation or applying for asylum are usually released from detention in a short time and permitted to stay in the US until further notice.
A DHS official stated the department is seriously considering separating women from their children , however no final decision has been made on the matter so far.
“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,” DHS said in a statement to Reuters.
“With safety in mind, the Department of Homeland Security continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey,” the statement added.
Immigrant rights advocates defended those fleeing violence and poor conditions in Central America forcing mothers to immigrate to the US and stated that they must be granted asylum status.
The proposal came as part of new measures being taken to discourage illegal entry to the US, where on the same matter US immigration agents are increasing pressure on migrants by detaining those unauthorized in places once were respected as sanctuaries of sorts – like courthouses and churches, which is spreading anger among activists.
Although deportation numbers are almost equal to those under former president Barack Obama, however ICE agents are now targeting places that were considered as “safe” before.
Daniela Vargas, 22, who was born in Argentina and came to the United States as a child, was arrested by the ICE agents after speaking at a press conference in Jackson, in the southern state of Mississippi.
Vargas’s father and brother, both undocumented migrants, were arrested earlier.
“Disturbing – Disturbing that ICE may have followed her from an immigration news conference,” wrote Democratic Senator Ricard Durbin on Twitter, commenting on Vargas’ quick arrest.
Vargas had been living in the US under the protection of a 2012 decree signed by Obama known as DACA, which authorizes people who were brought into the country as children, and grew up as Americans, to stay and work in the country.
Thousands of young people, known as ‘Dreamers,’ signed up for the program.
Vargas, however, let her ‘Dreamer’ status expire, and was trying to save money to afford the renewal fee when ICE agents detained her.
ICE agents are willing to deport Vargas without a hearing with an immigration judge, according to Vargas’s attorneys.
Also taken into custody for deportation: a woman who went to court in El Paso, Texas to file a complaint about domestic abuse, according to AFP.