Federal agents would press children traveling alone to disclose their parents' locations.
The Trump administration is contemplating resurrecting one of the most heinous practices of the 20th century under the guise of stopping illegal immigration from Central America, according to the Washington Post.
In a report by Nick Miroff, the Department of Homeland Security is evaluating separating detained children from their parents as one of several anti-immigration measures in response to an increase in migrants crossing the Mexican border.
"These measures, described on condition of anonymity because they have not been publicly disclosed, would also crack down on migrants living in the United States illegally who send for their children," Miroff wrote. "That aspect of the effort would use data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services to target parents for deportation after they attempt to regain custody of their children from government shelters."
Separating children from their parents was a notorious tactic used by Nazi Germany in its mass arrests of Jews and other targeted populations during World War II. In North America, the U.S. and Canadian governments also separated Native American children from their families a century ago.
Using children as informants to target and subsequently arrest parents was a devious tactic employed during the darkest moments of WWII.
The Trump administration justified this approach as a tough but necessary deterrent for illegal immigration, Miroff noted, citing an increase in November arrests as a pretext for considering these actions.
"In November, U.S. agents took into custody 7,018 families, or 'family units,' along the border with Mexico, a 45 percent increase over the previous month, the latest DHS statistics show," the Post said. "The number of Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UAC, was up 26 percent... Overall, the number of migrants detained last month along the Mexico border, 39,006, was the highest monthly total since Trump became president, according to DHS figures."
"The most contentious proposal -- to separate families in detention -- would keep adults in federal custody while sending their children to HHS shelters," Miroff wrote, then noting that DHS children shelters are currently near capacity. That implies privatized detention centers could be drawn on.
The idea of separating children from their parents was raised in March "by then-Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff. He told CNN at the time that the children would be 'well cared for as we deal with their parents,'" the Post said. "Kelly did not move forward with the plan, in part because of the backlash it triggered, administration officials said, and also because illegal migration had plunged to historic lows."
But since then, right-wing anti-immigration activists have pressed the administration to revive the option.
The Post quoted Andrew R. Arthur, a Center for Immigration Studies fellow, who said, "The parents that would undertake this perilous journey to the United States would be less likely to do it if they knew they would be separated from their kids."
Arthur called it "a reasonable step."
The Post noted that "migrants under age 18 who arrived without a parent must be turned over to HHS within 72 hours of being taken into DHS custody. The shelters where they are housed are designed to be more like boarding schools than grim detention centers."