With illegal border crossings on the rise once again, the Trump administration is considering a move that even some immigration hardliners consider draconian. Sources tell the New York Times and the Washington Post that the administration might try to discourage Central American families from making the crossing by splitting up families, keeping parents in adult facilities and sending their children to juvenile detention centers, or temporarily placing them with relatives already in the US. According to the Department of Homeland Security, some 7,000 "family units" and 4,000 unaccompanied children were among the 39,000 people detained along the Mexican border last month, the highest total since Trump took office. The current policy is to keep families together.
Some are detained in the three DHS family detention centers, which have a total of 2,200 beds, but many are released pending a court date. The Post's sources say DHS is also considering a plan to target the parents of unaccompanied children for deportation after they try to regain custody of their detained kids. Officials say the proposals have been presented to new DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen. DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton would not comment on specific policies, but said policy changes to deter migrants have been approved, and federal agencies plan "to implement them in the near future." (The plan to split up families was made public earlier this year, but was shelved after an outcry.)