The Trump administration is developing a proposal that would allow immigrant parents to choose between being kept in detention with their family or being separated from their children throughout the immigration process, according to McClatchy.
Two unnamed sources with knowledge of the proposal told the news agency that, under the plan, parents would choose between staying with their families in a tent city or temporarily giving up custody of their children.
The proposal is being developed as part of the effort to enforce the executive order ending the separation of families at the United States’ southern border signed by President Donald Trump last week.
Under a current law known as the Flores settlement agreement, the federal government is prohibited from keeping children in immigrant detention for more than 20 days. It does, however, allow parents to decide if they would like to keep custody of their children while detained.
Some critics have said that the proposal is cruel because it forces parents to choose between keeping their child in federal detention or handing them over to a foreign government, though others, like Jessica Vaughan, argue that families that stay together in detention also have their cases processed much more quickly.
Vaughn is the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies and said cooperation is key.
“If you cooperate then we have more flexibility,” she said. “Things might go a bit easier for you. We cannot detain you together unless it’s something you’re okay with. And you’re going to have to decide whether that is something that is important to you.”
Clara Long, a U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch, disagreed and told McClatchy that she believed children should not have to be detained with their parents to ensure a quicker end to the immigration process.
“How sneaky and cruel,” she said. “The choice between keeping your child on a tent city, military base, internment camp or ripping them apart is incredibly coercive.”