An interview from 2017 featuring then-Homeland Security chief John Kelly has resurfaced in which he suggested the separation of families could help deter illegal immigration.
The White House is now being blasted over the separation of migrant families.
On Monday, current Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen said the children who've been detained are "very well taken care of."
As the Trump administration offers inconsistent justifications for the policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border, an interview from 2017 featuring then-Homeland Security chief John Kelly has resurfaced in which he suggested the separation of families could help deter illegal immigration.
When asked by CNN in March 2017 if the Trump administration was seriously considering separating migrant children from their parents, Kelly said, "Yes, I am considering in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. ... I am considering exactly that."
"I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States," Kelly added.
Kelly, now White House chief of staff, also said any detained migrant children would be "well cared for" as "we deal with their parents."
DHS Secretary says he's considering separating immigant children from their parents to deter illegal immigration https://t.co/VI7iRONztC
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) March 6, 2017
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned the administration was enforcing a "zero tolerance" policy on immigration.
"If you cross the border unlawfully ... we will prosecute you," Sessions said at the time. "If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally."
Last week, it was reported that Homeland Security records show roughly 2,000 migrant children have been separated from their parents or guardians in a recent six-week period.
The White House is now being blasted from all sides over the separation of families, including by prominent Republicans.
On Monday, former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush tweeted, "Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. [Trump] should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers."
Amid the public outcry, the Trump administration has attempted to blame Democrats for what's occurring, despite no substantial evidence to support this claim, and even went as far to deny the policy of separating migrant children from their parents exists.
On Sunday, Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." But less than 24 hours later, she defended the administration over its immigration policies and said the children who've been detained are being "well taken care of."
“We will not apologize” for doing our job, says Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the “zero tolerance” immigration policy involving family separations https://t.co/nRw3Z8BpTH
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 18, 2018
"It is important to know that these minors are very well taken care of. Don't believe the press," Nielsen said in an address to the National Sheriffs Association.
"We have to do our job; we will not apologize doing for our job. ... This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you," she added.
Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, on Monday told "CBS This Morning" the separation of families at the border amounts to a "form of child abuse."