Ad­min­is­tra­tion may de­tain or sep­a­rate fam­i­lies un­der plan

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FROM PAGE ONE - By Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, Maria Sacchetti

WASH­ING­TON — The White House is ac­tively con­sider- ing plans that could again sep­a­rate par­ents and chil- dren at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, hop­ing to re­verse soar­ing num­bers of fam- ilies at­tempt­ing to cross il­le­gally into the United States, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials with di­rect knowl­edge of the ef­fort.

One op­tion un­der con- sider­a­tion is for the gov­ern- ment to de­tain asy­lum-seek- ing fam­i­lies to­gether for up to 20 days, then give par­ents a choice: stay in fam­ily de­ten­tion with your child for months or years as your im­mi­gra­tion case pro­ceeds, or al­low your chil­dren to be taken to a govern­ment shel­ter so other rel­a­tives or guardians can seek cus­tody.

That op­tion — called “bi­nary choice” — is one of sev­eral un­der con­sid­er­a­tion amid t he pres­i­dent’s frus­tra­tion over bor­der se­cu­rity. He has been un­able to ful­fill key prom­ises to build a bor- der wall and end what he calls “catch and re­lease” — a process be­gun un­der past ad­min­is­tra­tions in which most de­tained fam­i­lies are quickly freed to await im­mi­gra­tion hear­ings. The num­ber of mi­grant fam­ily mem- bers ar­rested and charged with il­le­gally cross­ing the bor­der jumped 38 per­cent in Au­gust and is now at record lev­els, ac­cord­ing to DHS of­fi­cials.

Se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say they are not plan­ning to re­vive the cha- otic forced sepa­ra­tions car­ried out by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in May and June, which spawned an enor­mous po­lit­i­cal back­lash and led to a court or­der to re­unite fam­i­lies.

But they feel com­pelled to do some­thing, and of­fi­cials say se­nior White House ad­viser Stephen Miller is ad­vo­cat­ing tough mea­sures be­cause he be­lieves the spring­time sepa­ra­tions worked as an ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent to ille gal cross­ings.

At least 2,500 chil­dren were taken from their par­ents over a pe­riod of six weeks. Cross­ings by fam­i­lies de­clined slightly in May, June and July be­fore surg­ing again in Au­gust. Septem­ber num­bers are ex­pected to be even higher.

Whereas s ome in­side the White House and the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity are con­cerned about the “op­tics” and po­lit­i­cal blow­back of re­newed sepa­ra­tions, Miller and oth­ers are de­ter­mined to act, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral of­fi­cials briefed on the de­lib­er­a­tions. There have been sev­eral high-level meet­ings in the White House in re­cent weeks about the is­sue. The “bi­nary choice” op­tion is seen as one that could be tried out fairly quickly.

“Ca­reer law en­force­ment pro­fes­sion­als in the U.S. govern­ment are work­ing to an­a­lyze and eval­u­ate op­tions that would pro­tect the Amer­i­can peo­ple, pre­vent the hor­rific ac­tions of child smug­gling, and stop drug car­tels from pour­ing into our com­mu­ni­ties,” deputy White House press sec­re­tary Ho­gan Gi­d­ley said in an emailed state­ment.

Any ef­fort to ex­pand fam­ily de­ten­tions and re­sume sepa­ra­tions would face mul­ti­ple lo­gis­ti­cal and le­gal hur­dles.

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