Instead of quickly releasing parents who are detained, as DHS does now the majority of the time, the department would threaten parents with criminal charges and jail time—the “most effective” deterrent to immigrating families, according to an internal memo obtained by the Washington Post.

DHS has “a legal obligation to protect the best interests of the child whether that be from human smugglings, drug traffickers, or nefarious actors who knowingly break our immigration laws and put minor children at risk,” department spokesperson Katie Waldman told The Hill on Friday.

Reports of the new potential prosecution policy come as a caravan of about 200 migrants approach the border with plans to request asylum, having traveled through Mexico from Central America. The Trump administration and Fox News have denounced the expected arrival of the group as a “disgrace” to national security. Most of the travelers are women and children, making the journey as a large group for safety. 

Philip G. Schrag, a Georgetown law professor and asylum expert, called the proposal to charge immigrant parents with crimes “terrible for both the children and the parents.”

“I think it’s absolutely wrenching psychologically…What are we doing to those children psychologically that will haunt us years down the road if they become Americans?” he said to the Post.

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