Mar 28, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Kirstjen Nielsen expected to request authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is expected to ask Congress in the coming days for permission to deport unaccompanied migrant children and hold families seeking asylum in detention longer than currently permitted, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by NBC News.

The backdrop: Under the law presently, children who enter the U.S. from non-border states are reassigned into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services to be rejoined with relatives or sponsors. Also under federal law, immigrant families with minors cannot be detained for more than 20 days, despite the Trump administration's previously failed attempts to reverse this by executive action.

Details: Nielsen, in the letter, agues that the law as it stands restricts DHS's ability to deport migrant children, serving as "another dangerous 'pull' factor," as she seeks to address the "root causes of the emergency" that led to the rise in border crossings since February. Her proposal also requests more funding for detention beds, extends the duration for which families can be held, and would allow immigrants to apply for asylum from their home countries.

What's next: If the proposal emerges, it will have to clear the Democratic-majority House, where it will likely face opposition. According to NBC, daily border crossings have recently reached a 13-year high, resulting in immigration officers premature release of immigrants from their custody.

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