The Trump administration has been practicing separating children from their families as an anti- immigration move. Democrats from the House visited an immigration detention facility in New York before a vote planned by House Republicans is to occur next week. New York Representative Jerry Nadler, leader of the group of Democrats, live tweeted the visit for the rest of the country to see. Outside the facility, protests were taking place.
To begin the visit, the lawmakers were refused entry until the director of the facility arrived. Papers were put up to block the view inside the facility as the lawmakers were waiting to be let in.
“What we saw here today was heartbreaking. Parents are being held prisoner inside, literally crying to us to be reunited with their families. Trump and Sessions say they are following laws. That is a lie. There are no laws requiring families to be ripped apart,” a statement from the lawmakers after the visit read.
Back at the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill over the immigration bills that Republicans have announced a vote on. The current plan was executed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the plan in May. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security are to prosecute anyone who illegally crosses the United States-Mexico border, which means separating the parents from their children. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that 2,000 minors have been separated from their adult guardians between mid- April and the end of May, meaning that the figure could be higher than that as of current.
An anonymous source from the White House has said that Trump is using this policy as leverage to force Democrats to agree to other immigration demands of him, such as the funding of his border wall idea and the proposed decrease in the amount of legal immigrants allowed into the U.S. yearly. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway refuted that statement, saying that she does not want anyone to be using children as leverage. First Lady Melania Trump made a similar statement following Conway’s. On the other hand, White House adviser Stephen Miller disagreed, saying that the current separation policy proves that nobody is exempt from illegally entering the United States.
A pediatrician who visited a shelter in Texas that holds 60 beds and small playground spoke to the Washington Post about the conditions inside. Each room was equipped with toys, books, and crayons and resembled a happy and friendly environment for the children. Upon further inspection, however, this was not the case.
The pediatrician met a 2 year old after arriving, inside a room for toddlers, where she was thrashing her fists into a mat and screaming. The shelter worker who was attempting to calm the child with toys and books seemed visibly flustered, the pediatrician, Colleen Kraft, noted. The shelter worker was unable to do anything more. There is no touching between staff and the children, even the youngest ones. The toddler in question had been removed from her mother’s care the former night and brought to the shelter for children under age 12.
Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that she and her fellow colleagues were alarmed by what they were hearing about the shelters, so they went to visit one that was run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Kraft said that it was clear from what she saw that the workers were trying their hardest to ensure the needs of the children to ensure that they were being met. They were fed, they had toys to play with, and their diapers were changed. Still, the lack of touch and the lack of their parents could cause devastating effects for the children. Toxic stress is caused by being separated from caregivers and trusted parents. This can cause disruptions to a child’s brain development and increase the fight-or-flight anxiety hormones that are naturally found in their bodies. Kraft said that these types of emotional trauma issues could lead to heart disease and substance abuse issues further along in their lives.
Stories about the separation policy include infants being seized from their mothers during breastfeeding, the story of one woman’s trauma being separated from her children, and the APA’s example of a Honduras man who commit suicide after being removed from his wife and child.
With the warnings about the health risks that the new policy poses coming from health officials from all over the country, mental health solutions can and will be implemented in the future. The use of talk therapy, essential oils, and medication are all thought to help with the anxiety and depression that these children may face.
As of June 14, over 11,000 migrant children were in the custody of DHS, a 20% increase, including those who arrived without a relative and those who were separated from their parents. Shelters are at capacity, with officials making preparations to hold the children on military bases and tents in the El Paso desert.