UNICEF: Proposal To Separate Families At The Border ‘Cruel And Traumatic’

Andrew Harnik/AP

A day after the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that he was considering separating children and parents detained while crossing the border, UNICEF called the idea “cruel and traumatic.”

Kelly confirmed to CNN Monday afternoon that his department was considering separating families caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

“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 to the United States,” he said of the proposal, first reported by Reuters on Saturday. He added later: “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.”

On its Twitter account, citing a Washington Post report on Kelly’s comments, UNICEF called separating children and parents at the border “cruel and traumatic”

At a press conference Tuesday addressing the Trump administration’s new travel ban and recent wave of deportations, Clarissa Martínez De Castro, deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza’s office of research, advocacy and legislation, called the idea “inhumane.”

On Saturday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement that “[p]roposals to separate children from their families as a tool of law enforcement to deter immigration are harsh and counterproductive. We urge policymakers to always be mindful that these are vulnerable, scared children.”

CNN reported that the Obama administration had also considered separating families but that it had ultimately decided against it.

“It was never implemented because the idea was that it was too detrimental to the safety of the children to separate them from their parents, and the thinking was it was always preferable to detain the family as a unit or release the family as the unit,” Leon Fresco, who oversaw civil immigration litigation in former President Obama’s Justice Department, told the network.

Kelly said separating families would be meant to discourage attempts to cross the border in the first place. But, he said, the government had experience dealing with unaccompanied minors.

“We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors. 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,” he said, adding later: “It’s more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network.”

Watch Kelly’s interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer below. Discussion of separating children and parents comes at 6:11.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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