Reservations in Congress About DHS Proposal to Separate Women, Children at Border

Reservations in Congress About DHS Proposal to Separate Women, Children at Border
Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, on June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he’s not sure if an idea circulating in the Trump administration to separate illegal immigrant children from their parents at the border “is a new proposal or this is some document internally that someone dreamt up as a suggestion, and that no one’s ever going to actually do it.”

Reuters cited three government officials last week saying that the proposal is being considered by the Department of Homeland Security as a deterrent and as a workaround to a federal court ruling that prohibits lengthy detention of children. By separating families, children would be put into protective custody and potentially placed with U.S. relatives while parents are held in detention until deportation or asylum hearings.

Rubio noted Sunday on CNN that reports of the National Guard being dispatched to round up illegal immigrants “turned out not to be true,” so this proposal may not come to fruition.

“Suffice it to say that there is no doubt that, in many parts of Central America and in the Western Hemisphere, there are people sending their children, or even oftentimes arriving with children, because they know that, if they do, they’ll be treated differently than people that arrive without children,” he said. “I am deeply concerned about that. And one of the best things we can do is to help countries, for example, like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala to improve conditions, so people don’t have to leave those countries.”

“…But I don’t know even know if this is a real proposal. I’d have to learn more about it to understand exactly what they’re talking about doing. In general, just the way you mentioned it to me now, I think it could be problematic to implement.”

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) told CNN on Friday that the proposal “sounds highly unusual, this notion of separating parent and child, and counter to much of what I have seen in terms of immigration policies thus far.”

“If you were to pick up winds that are blowing in Washington, D.C., it would be toward this notion of DACA, or deferred action, on young people,” Sanford said. “What I’m hearing sounds the opposite of at least the political winds that I have been hearing over the last two weeks in Washington.”

DHS told Reuters that 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.”

“With safety in mind, the Department of Homeland Security continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey,” the agency added.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) tweeted that the proposal is “more cruelty.” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) tweeted that the plan “endangers kids & harms foster care system.”

“Trump DHS proposal to rip mothers from their children at s. border is inhumane & unacceptable. We resist all efforts to break up families!” tweeted Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

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