U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly last week seemed to walk back his earlier comments in which he proposed splitting up mothers and children who arrived at the border together.
In early March, Kelly had said that the Department of Homeland Security was considering a policy that would separate families at the Mexican border in the name of deterring unauthorized immigration.
Last Wednesday, after a meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill, Kelly seemed to reverse course. In an interview with CNN later that day, he said that such a separation would not happen “unless there is some other consideration,” such as an illness, according to the CNN report.
The proposed policy would have placed children “in the least restrictive setting until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian.” This likely would have meant placing these children in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program.
Some Democrats said the meeting was mostly positive, while others were dubious about Kelly’s commitments.
“‘Frustration’ would be a good lead,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) said to CNN. “He stated he was not separating children from their parents, but that’s not been our experience.”
Kelly also said that he is planning to hold a conference in the spring in Miami that would address the causes of immigration from countries in Central American.
The number of family units arriving at the border skyrocketed between 2015 and 2016, nearly doubling from 39,838 to 77,764. The UAC program also saw a surge that year to 59,692, up from 39,970.