Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) visited migrant mothers being detained in Washington state, some of whom had been separated from their children by border officials.
“The mothers could not stop crying when they spoke about their children,” the congresswoman said in a statement to the media after the visit. “Young girls and boys who were taken from them with no chance to say goodbye and no plan for reunification.”
Senator Warren, who visited the McAllen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center, described her experience: “Before we could get in, CBP insisted we had to watch a government propaganda video. There’s no other way to describe it – it’s like a movie trailer. It was full of dramatic narration about the “illegals” crossing our border, complete with gory pictures about the threats that these immigrants bring to the United States, from gangs to skin rashes…
“We came into the area where the children were held. These cages were bigger with far more people. In the center of the cage, there’s a freestanding guard tower probably a story or story-and-a-half taller to look down over the children. The girls are held separately in their own large cage. The children told us that they had come to the United States with family and didn’t know where they had been taken. Eleven years old. Twelve. Locked in a cage with strangers. Many hadn’t talked to their mothers or fathers. They didn’t know where they were or what would happen to them next.
“The children were quiet. Early afternoon, and they just sat. Some were on thin mats with foil blankets pulled over their heads. They had nothing – no books, no toys, no games. They looked shell shocked.
“And then there were the large cages with women and small children. Women breast-feeding their young children,” said Warren.
Antar Davidson quit his job at a Southwest Key that operates more than two dozen shelters for migrant children from Texas to California. He said his breaking point came when he was asked to tell two siblings, ages 6 and 10, that they couldn’t hug each other. “They called me over the radio. And they wanted to translate to these kids that the rule of the shelter is that they are not allowed to hug,” he says. “And these are kids that had just been separated from their mom — basically just huddling and hugging each other in a desperate attempt to remain together.”
But asked if it’s “OK to hug children.” Alexia Rodriguez, the company’s vice president, said, “Absolutely.”
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has more than 11,000 children in shelters. Almost half of them are in facilities run by Southwest Key. It hasn’t been disclosed if some of the 11,000 include the recent 2,000 or so children separated from zero tolerance.
Some detention sites opened to the media and politicians show better conditions with beds, books, and television for migrant children. But they are selected sites for media to showcase.
Psychological Damage…Healthcare Professionals Speak Out
The American Psychological Association (APA) warned of long-lasting psychological damage. “Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children,” APA said in a statement.
“Research also suggests that the longer that parents and children are separated, the greater the reported symptoms of anxiety and depression are for children.”
The American Public Health Association (APHA) also warned that separation of children from families would have “a dire impact on their health, both now and into the future.” Some of the potential long-term effects, APHA claims, could be alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, and suicide. “More alarming is the interruption of these children’s chance at achieving a stable childhood,” the APHA said. The professional organization called the policy a violation of fundamental human rights.
Another health organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement: “We must remember that immigrant children are still children. Protections for children in law or by the courts exist because children are uniquely vulnerable and are at high risk for trauma, trafficking, and violence.”
Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, flew to Texas and visited a shelter for migrant children in the Rio Grande Valley. There, she saw a young girl in tears. “She couldn’t have been more than 2 years old,” Dr. Kraft says. “Just crying and pounding and having a huge, huge temper tantrum. This child was just screaming, and nobody could help her. And we know why she was crying. She didn’t have her mother. She didn’t have her parent who could soothe her and take care of her.”
At the facility in South Texas, Dr. Kraft says, the staff told her that federal regulations prevented them from touching or holding the child to soothe her.
Dr. Kraft told CNN: “I’ve never been in this situation where I’ve felt so needlessly helpless. This is something that was inflicted on this child by the government, and really is nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse.”
“By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children. The long-term concern of what we call toxic stress is that brains are not developed efficiently or effectively,” Dr. Kraft says.
Dr. Julie Linton, who has treated migrant children separated from their parents in the past, said “Now it’s a systematic policy to create the same kind of trauma that, before, I saw really on a case-by-case basis,” she says. “Now we’re systematizing something that we know is incredibly harmful and incredibly cruel.”
Colmenares Jr., a health planning coordinator with the State Department of Health said, “Separating a young child from the mother - without any form of contact, not knowing where they are and when they can be reunited - can bring about irreparable physical, emotional and developmental harm on the child. The mother is the source of love, affection and security for the child, and forcibly cutting off this relationship not only affects the mother but victimizes the child as well. Without anyone they can trust to help them, the child is left to experience increased trauma which could scar him/her for the rest of his/her life.”
Back to top↑
Home | Advertise | Subscribe | About Us | Contact Us
© 2008-2018 Hawaii Filipino Chronicle Inc.