Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday he is considering separating children and parents caught crossing the border illegally.
Kelly told CNN's Wolf Blitzer the measure would help deter Central Americans from embarking on the dangerous trip many undocumented migrants take to reach the United States.
"I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings people through Mexico to the United States," Kelly said.
Asked whether he was indeed proposing separating family units, Kelly said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has "tremendous experience" dealing with unaccompanied minors.
"We turn them over to [The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in foster care or linking them up with relatives in the United States," he said.
Reuters first reported the proposal on Friday.
Officials said that under the measure, parents crossing the border with their children would await deportation orders under detention, while children would be placed in protective custody.
Family units are normally released after being caught by border enforcement officials while they await immigration proceedings, due to regulations prohibiting the long-term detention of minors.
President Trump campaigned on a pledge to end "catch and release" immigration policies.
But Kelly told Blitzer his motivation for the family separation policy was to dissuade immigrants from the dangers of the northbound migrant network.
Asked whether he understood how a family separation policy would be perceived by the public, Kelly replied: "It is more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network."