Last Friday, U.S. officials floated a proposal by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to separate parents caught crossing into the U.S. illegally from any children they have with them, detaining them separately as a punitive way to discourage immigration from violence-torn Central America. On Monday, DHS Secretary John Kelly confirmed that he is seriously considering the plan, explaining that his goal is really to protect the children. "Let me start by saying 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," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday evening.
After Kelly touched on the horrors these immigrants face crossing up through Mexico, Blitzer asked him again if he really plans to separate the parents and children who endure that journey and successfully make it to the U.S. "We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors," Kelly said. "We turn them over to HHS and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in kind of foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States. Yes I'm 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."
If the goal is to reduce illegal immigration by making the U.S. seem as bad an option as risking death or starvation at home, then the proposal Kelly is defending might work. "But you understand how that looks to the average person?" Blitzer asked him. "It's more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network," Kelly said. We all have priorities.