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The DHS is reportedly considering separating women from their children if they're caught illegally crossing the border

The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly "actively considering" changing its policy against separating women and children caught illegally crossing the U.S. border, three government officials told Reuters. Though no decision has been made, the proposal suggests allowing the government "to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings," while putting their children "into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services ... until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian," Reuters reported. The current policy, formed under former President Barack Obama, states women and children can be held at family detention centers for a maximum of 21 days before being released and allowed to stay in the U.S. while their cases are heard.

Congressional Republicans have argued the Obama-era policy encourages immigrants to attempt the journey with their children so that even if they are caught, they will likely be released in the U.S. while they await a hearing. Officials told Reuters the new proposal is intended to deter mothers from attempting to cross the border with their children. Immigrant rights advocates argue the policy "could create lifelong psychological trauma" for children who are separated from their parents.

The White House, DHS, and HHS did not return Reuters' request for comment. Last week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly ordered officials to "deport or criminally prosecute" parents who had coordinated with smugglers to bring their children into the U.S.