Children and Adolescents Families Immigration & Justice

DHS Says Undocumented Families Will Not Be Separated at the Border

WASHINGTON - Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly meets with the department’s senior leadership for his first time since being confirmed as the 5th Secretary of DHS. Washington, D.C. Jan. 18, 2017. Prior to joining DHS, Secretary Kelly served in the United States Marine Corps for 45 years closing his career as the commander of the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) in 2016. Secretary Kelly has held senior command positions in Iraq and as the Senior Military Assistant to two Secretaries of Defense. Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler.
Jeremy Loudenback


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.

Jeremy Loudenback is the Child Trauma Editor at The Chronicle of Social Change where this story originally appeared.

Photo credit: Department of Homeland Security.

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