— fake nick ramsey (@nick_ramsey) March 4, 2017
Weeks after President Donald Trump referred to his hard line stance against illegal immigration as a “military operation,” new reports from within the Department of Homeland Security suggest new plans (not involving the courts) are currently being developed to do just that. Specifically, Reuters and MSNBC are both reporting on a DHS town hall meeting with staffers in early February at which Asylum Division Chief John Lafferty outlined just how the department’s proposed measures would accomplish this.
According to MSNBC and its weeknight program All In with Chris Hayes, Lafferty told to attendees at the February 2nd town hall DHS would increase its current allotment of 3,500 beds at immigration detention centers to 20,000. That’s an increase of almost 500 percent at facilities designated “for the indefinite detention of those seeking asylum”:
The plan is part of a new set of policies for those apprehended at the border that would make good on President Trump’s campaign promise to end the practice critics call “catch and release.”
“If implemented, this expansion in immigration detention would be the fastest and largest in our country’s history,” says Andrew Free, an immigration lawyer in Nashville who represents clients applying for asylum. “And my worry is it’ll be permanent. Once those beds are in place they’ll never go away.”
Detention centers, like the monstrously large (2,400 beds) South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, are operated by private prison companies like CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. And along with Free’s worries about their potential permanence, their resemblance to World War II-era Japanese internment camps in the United States isn’t that far fetched.
To make matters worse, one of the policy proposals couched within Lafferty and the DHS’ plans includes a rather startling measure aimed at deterring families from illegally crossing the border. According to Reuters, three unnamed government officials familiar with the town hall and the proposal in question explained the reasoning behind separating mothers from their children:
The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, in the “least restrictive setting” until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian.
In a statement, DHS noted “the journey north is a dangerous one with too many situations where children — brought by parents, relatives or smugglers — are often exploited, abused or may even lose their lives.” Current practice allows families applying for asylum to be released temporarily and until their case is resolved, as children cannot be detained for an extended period of time due to federal appeales court ruling. However, these new proposals for expansion and separation would defy these and effectively fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to end so-called “catch and release.”