The Trump administration wants to split up asylum-seeking families to deter illegal immigration

Central Americans seeking asylum try to enter the U.S.
(Image credit: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images)

In March, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, then secretary of homeland security, publicly floated separating parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border from their children and detaining them in separate facilities, as a punitive way to deter illegal immigration from violence-torn Central America. The plan was shelved after a public backlash and amid low immigration numbers, which the White House credited to the "Trump effect," or deterrence through aggressive arrests and tough talk.

Now, the number of immigrants arrested crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is rising — to 29,086 in November, including 7,018 families, from 11,677 apprehensions in April — and the policy of splitting up families is back, approved by the White House and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and awaiting approval by Kelly's successor, new DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, The Washington Post and The New York Times report. It is still controversial, even among some immigration hardliners at DHS, but the idea has support in the Trump administration. "People aren't going to stop coming unless there are consequences to illegal entry," a DHS official tells the Post.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.