'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 said. Photograph: (Reuters)
'Yes...I am considering exactly that. They will be well-cared for as we deal with their parents,' said Homeland Security chief John Kelly
The United States is considering separating immigrant children from their parents in a bid to deter illegal migration, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly said Monday.
Kelly, in an interview with CNN, was asked whether DHS was weighing an initiative that would split children from their parents if they were caught trying to enter the US illegally.
"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 said. "We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors," he said.
He noted the DHS turns them over to the Health and Human Services department, which puts the children in foster care or links them with parents or family members in the United States.
"Yes, I am 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 New York Post reports that Homeland Security officials say that people trying to sneak into the US bring along kids to take advantage of the system, which allows adults with children to stay in the country until their case is heard.
The New York Post says that tens of thousands of parents and children mostly fleeing violence in Central American countries have been caught trying to cross into the US illegally in recent years. While the families are usually detained for a few days or week before an immigration judge decides their case. If their case goes to a federal immigration court, it can take years.
One unnamed official told CNN, "We are seeing kids essentially kidnapped and used to get here and stay," The report said.
The proposal would allow US immigration officials to keep the children separated from the adults who brought them to the US, CNN reports. The adults could be kept in detention, while the children could be moved elsewhere under protected status, possibly with family already in the US or in state protective custody, such as the child protective services, CNN reports.
President Donald Trump ran on a platform arguing that mass immigration by unskilled workers costs US taxpayers billions of dollars and depresses wages and job opportunities.
He vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out migrants he branded drug-dealers, murderers and rapists.
Federal agents in recent weeks have launched sweeps across the country to round up undocumented immigrants.
Kelly spoke after Trump earlier in the day signed a revised ban on refugees and on travellers from six Muslim-majority nations.
With his first executive order rejected by federal courts, the new, scaled-back order freezes refugee admissions for 120 days and halts new visas for Syrians, Iranians, Libyans, Somalis, Yemenis and Sudanese citizens for 90 days.
The order takes effect March 16.
(WION with inputs from AFP)