Trump administration says no longer considering separating women, children at border

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - The Trump administration is no longer considering separating women and children at the southern U.S. border as a means of deterring their migration, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said on Wednesday. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was questioned by a Senate panel on Wednesday, but only said it was not current policy to separate women and children except in certain circumstances. The policy, first reported by Reuters, is "no longer under consideration, so the current policy is it," said DHS spokesman David Lapan said.

A DHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the agency has changed course in part because of the sharp decline in women attempting to travel to the United States with their children.

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Touching scenes from the US-Mexico border
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Touching scenes from the US-Mexico border

Martha Morales and Juan Manuel Gonzalez Camacho hug their grandaughter Aileen Gonalez and son Adrian Gonalez Morales as they are allowed to meet after a door is opened along the United States-Mexico Border wall during Opening the Door Of Hope/Abriendo La Puerta De La Esparana at Friendship Park in San Ysidro, California on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

(SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Border patrol agents stand at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico border to allow Adrian Gonzalez-Morales and his daughter Aileen hug his parents Juan and Martha, as part of Universal Children's Day at the Border Field State Park, California, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

U.S. Border patrol agents stand at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico border to allow Luis Eduardo Hernandez-Bautista hug Ty'Jahnae Williams and his father Eduardo Hernandez (not in view), as part of Universal Children's Day at the Border Field State Park, California, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Family members hug during a U.S. Border Patrol sponsored visit at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. The U.S. Border Patrol, in coordination with immigrant rights groups, opened the metal gate so that previously selected families could visit for several minutes.

(Photographer: David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A woman in Friendship Park in San Diego, California, U.S. speaks with children across a fence separating Mexico and the United States, November 12, 2016. Picture taken from Tijuana, Mexico.

(REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

U.S. Border patrol agents stand at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico border to allow Edith Hernandez and her daughter Yvette hug Maria Plata-Colin, as part of Universal Children's Day at Border Field State Park, California, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

People in Friendship Park in San Diego, California, U.S. are seen behind a fence separating Mexico and the United States, November 12, 2016. Picture taken from Tijuana, Mexico.

(REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

Relatives separated by immigration hug at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico and U.S border on Universal Children's Day in Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

Relatives separated by immigration hug at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico and U.S border on Universal Children's Day in Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

Luis Hernandez hugs his Father Eduardo as they are allowed to meet after a door is opened along the United States - Mexico Border wall during Opening the Door Of Hope / Abriendo La Puerta De La Esparana at Friendship Park in San Ysidro, California on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

(SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the Gonzalez family hug each other and react as they encounter at the gate of the U.S.- Mexico border fence opened for a few minutes on November 19, 2016 in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico. The door opening was organized by pro-migrants NGOs and local authorities in coordination with the United States Border Patrol.

(GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Relatives separated by immigration hug at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico and U.S border on Universal Children's Day in Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

A U.S. Border patrol agent stands at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico border to allow Laura Avila and her daughter Laura Vera Martinez hug Maria Socorro Martinez Lopez, as part of Universal Children's Day at the Border Field State Park, California, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

A young boy joins his family members as they hug during a U.S. Border Patrol sponsored visit at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. The U.S. Border Patrol, in coordination with immigrant rights groups, opened the metal gate so that previously selected families could visit for several minutes.

(Photographer: David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Relatives separated by immigration hug at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico and U.S border on Universal Children's Day in Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

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Only 1,125 children traveling with guardians, who are mostly women, were apprehended at the southern U.S. border in March, according to data released on Wednesday by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The decline marks a 93 percent fall since December in what was previously the fastest-growing demographic of immigrant apprehensions.

Overall immigrant apprehensions fell to a 17-year low, down to 16,600 in March.

Kelly credited President Donald Trump's tough immigration policies for the decline.

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Various types of homes, lifestyles in shadow of the border fence
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Various types of homes, lifestyles in shadow of the border fence
A shoe and clothes pins are seen on a clothes line next to a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, March 3, 3017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Tourists take pictures next to the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican Carlos, 27, who says that he was deported from the United States, heats up tortillas at his house near the double fence that separates Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pensioner Pedro, 72, rests outside his home near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 21, 2017. "Neither Trump nor the wall is going to stop anyone, maybe just for a moment," he said. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pants hang on a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man is fishing next to the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican carpenter Porfirio, 68, stands near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Joaquin, 36, a chef from Guatemala who says he was deported from the United States, builds a bed in a tree, near a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 26, 2017. "I've tried to cross so many times that the (U.S.) border guards even got to know me, but I never made it back," said Joaquin, who makes a living by collecting trash in Tijuana that he tries to sell to a local recycling plant. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Joaquin, 36, a chef from Guatemala who says he was deported from the United States, poses for a photograph while leaning on a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 26, 2017. "I've tried to cross so many times that the (U.S.) border guards even got to know me, but I never made it back," said Joaquin, who makes a living by collecting trash in Tijuana that he tries to sell to a local recycling plant. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man sells hot dogs next to the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican carpenter Porfirio, 68, cuts his son's hair outside their home near the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pensioner Pedro, 72, is seen at his house near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 26, 2017. "Neither Trump nor the wall is going to stop anyone, maybe just for a moment," he said. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pensioner Pedro, 72, caresses his dog Orejona outside his home near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 23, 2017. "Neither Trump nor the wall is going to stop anyone, maybe just for a moment," he said. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A shopping cart with a typical Mexican hat and a broom are seen next to the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A member of the U.S. border patrol inspects the area where the border fence separating Mexico and the United States is interrupted, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The border fence separating Mexico and the United States is seen through a hole of a second border fence in an area where double border fences were built, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A family burns trash near a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A girl runs outside her home near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican architect Carlos Torres, 68, adjusts signs near the double border fences separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 25, 2017. "Walls won't halt immigration," Torres said. Trump, he said, "doesn't know what he's talking about. Here at this fence, people keep crossing every week." REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A girl climbs stairs near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Carpenter Moses and dental assistant Sara's home stands near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, March 5, 2017. "Trump is a good actor, a racist and is ignorant of God and people. Kennedy said, we are brothers and no walls are needed," Sara said. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican architect Carlos Torres, 68, is reflected in a glass window of his house near a section of the double border fences separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, March 1, 2017. "Walls won't halt immigration," Torres said. Trump, he said, "doesn't know what he's talking about. Here at this fence, people keep crossing every week." REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pilar, 27, a housewife, cleans her house near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A house stands near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A shack stands next to a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Joaquin, 36, a chef from Guatemala who says he was deported from the United States, sits underneath a tree near a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 28, 2017. "I've tried to cross so many times that the (U.S.) border guards even got to know me, but I never made it back," said Joaquin, who makes a living by collecting trash in Tijuana that he tries to sell to a local recycling plant. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A section of the border fence separating Mexico (L) and the United States is seen on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The Mexican neighborhood Nido de Aguilas is seen next to the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A painting of Jesus Christ is seen on the wall of a house, next to a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A house stands next to a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States is seen, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An officer of the U.S. border patrol inspects the area where the border fence separating Mexico and the United States is interrupted, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican engineer Enrique, 65, walks around a basketball court at his house, next to the border fence that separates Mexico and the United States and which also serves as the fence for his house, in Tijuana, Mexico, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The roof of a house made with an advertisement banner is seen next to a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido SEARCH "FENCE GARRIDO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Under Trump, who took office on Jan. 20, the Department of Homeland Security had weighed separating women and children and issued guidance instructing officers to criminally charge parents who pay human smugglers to transport their children.

Trump also broadened the categories of illegal immigrants prioritized for deportation to include those charged, even if not convicted, of serious crimes.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)

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