Homeland Security officials reportedly planned to arrest thousands of migrant families who had final deportation orders and remove them from the US in a show of force.
However the plans were put on hold by then-Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) head Ron Vitiello and then-secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to interviews with officials conducted by the Washington Post and the Associated Press.
The proposal was intended to send a message and possibly deter others from crossing the border, the officials said, and was supported by Donald Trump‘s senior adviser Stephen Miller and ICE’s deputy director Matthew Albence.
But Mr Vitiello and Ms Nielsen reportedly put the proposal aside over concerns about diverting resources from the border, a lack of detention spaces and the possibility of renewed public outrage over the treatment of migrant families.
The plan, which remains under consideration, included fast-tracking immigration cases to allow judges to order deportations for those who did not show up for hearings. Officials told the Washington Post 90 per cent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence.
It also prioritised the newest cases in order to deport people faster.
Mr Vitiello “didn’t think it was a good idea,” one Homeland Security official told the newspaper. “Both he and Nielsen instinctively thought it was bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked.”
Mr Vitiello’s nomination to lead ICE was quashed by the White House last month and Ms Nielsen resigned a few days later.
Last summer the Trump administration sparked mass outrage when it separated children from parents at southern border of the US.
The US president promised he would clamp down on immigration during his campaign run, but has so far been unable to stem the flow of migrants.
The number of border crossings has risen dramatically in the past few months to more than 100,000 per month.
The White House recently asked Congress for $4.5bn in supplemental funding, mostly for humanitarian aid and shelter space for migrant children.
Additional reporting by agencies