Trump officials discussed ‘deterrent effect’ of prosecuting migrant parents: report

Trump officials discussed ‘deterrent effect’ of prosecuting migrant parents: report
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Trump administration officials discussed the "deterrent effect" of targeting parents of migrant families with prosecution, NBC News reported Thursday.

The authors wrote that the "increase in prosecutions would be reported by the media and would have a substantial deterrent effect" in a 2017 draft of what became the administration's family separation policy.

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In June, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role MORE said the administration did "not have a policy of separating families at the border" and was only enforcing laws that were already in place.

The draft was given to NBC by Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator and top Trump immigration official argue over asylum claims on Twitter Senate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico MORE's (D-Ore.) office, which said it was leaked to them by a government whistleblower. 

In the memo "Policy Options to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration," dated Dec. 16 2017, reportedly shows that officials from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security discussed ways to deter families seeking asylum.

A Justice Department official suggested Customs and Border Patrol agents could deny asylum hearings to children who had been separated from their parents. Instead, the entire family would be given an order of “expedited removal” and taken apart.

"If CBP issues an ER [expedited removal] for the entire family unit, places the parents in the custody of the U.S. Marshal, and then places the minors with HHS, it would seem that DHS could work with HHS to actually repatriate [deport] the minors then," the official wrote.

"It would take coordination with the home countries, of course, but that doesn't seem like too much of a cost to pay compared to the status quo."

It is unclear whether this plan included a method to reunify families.

A DHS official told NBC that they do no comment on specifics in pre-decisional documents.

"The Trump administration has made clear that all legal options are on the table to enforce the rule of law, rein in mass unchecked illegal immigration, and defend our borders," DHS spokesperson Katie Waldman told NBC. "In December of 2017, we saw the number of apprehensions increasing as a result of the Flores Settlement Agreement, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and a lack of physical barrier on the Southern Border."

"In part we were predicting — and trying to prevent — the exact humanitarian and security crisis we are confronted by now," she added. "It would be malpractice to not seriously examine every single avenue to gain operational control of the border and ensure that those who are entering our country have a legal right to be here."