Donald Trump’s immigration policy is about to get even more terrifying.
Women and their children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by U.S. authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, three government officials told Reuters Friday afternoon.
According to the report, the officials said proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children.
Trump has called for ending “catch and release,” in which migrants who cross illegally are freed to live in the United States while awaiting legal proceedings.
The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services until they can be taken into the care of state-sponsored guardian.
As Reuters notes, two of the officials were briefed on the proposal at a Feb. 2 training session for asylum officers by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum chief John Lafferty.
A third DHS official told Reuters the department is actively considering separating women from their children but has not made a decision.
Republicans in Congress have argued women are willing to risk the dangerous journey with their children because they are assured they will be quickly released from detention and given court dates set years into the future.
Immigrant rights advocates, however, have argued that Central America’s violent and impoverished conditions force mothers to immigrate to the United States and that they should be given asylum status.
Implementing the new policy proposal “could create lifelong psychological trauma,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center. “Especially for children that have just completed a perilous journey from Central America.”
DHS, HHS and the White House did not respond to requests for comment, according to Reuters.