Border separations permanently damage kids

 

The Trump administration’s new policy of forcibly separating children from their parents will cause irreparable damage to many of the children and is a “great injustice,” doctors said Friday.

Medical groups are unanimous in denouncing the policy, which they note is not defined in any U.S. law. Besides being traumatic and unnecessary, the stress can damage brain development, they said.

“Any forced separation is highly stressful for children and can cause lifelong trauma, as well as an increased risk of other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said the American Psychiatric Association’s Dr. Altha Stewart.

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Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children
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Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
An occupant at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
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“Many families crossing the United States border are fleeing war and violence in their home countries and are already coping with the effects of stress and trauma. These children deserve our protection and should remain with their families as they seek asylum.”

The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that 1,995 children were taken from their parents between April 19 and May 31 of this year.

It’s as bad and as harmful as seizing Native American children was in the past, said Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“When you think about our history of separating our Native American kids and sending them to boarding school and Japanese internment camps, and other human rights violations, this is one that’s happening before our eyes and that’s why we need to speak out against it,” Kraft told NBC News.

Kraft saw some of the detained children in April.

“It was really devastating to see,” she said. “The first room we went into was a toddler room and there was a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 2 years old who was just sobbing and crying and was inconsolable.”

Staff told Kraft they were forbidden to physically comfort the children.

“And we all knew that the problem was her mother wasn’t there. And she wanted her mother. And none of us could fix that.”

It’s more than just distressing.

“We know that separation of children from loving caregivers promotes something called toxic stress in their brain,” Kraft said. “There are certain patterns of stress that result in disruptions of brain architecture in children and can result in young children in developmental delays.”

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Migrants detained near US-Mexico border
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Migrants detained near US-Mexico border
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A U.S. Border Patrol agent takes a group of Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents take Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks for groups of asylum seekers crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents take Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take groups of them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents take a group of Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center for possible separation. U.S. border authorities are executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political-asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A Honduran mother holds her two-year-old as U.S. Border Patrol as agents review their papers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran stands with her mother after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained before being sent to a Border Patrol processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A U.S. Border Patrol spotlight shines on a terrified mother and son from Honduras as they are found in the dark near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and had become lost in the woods. They were then detained by Border Patrol agents and then sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain a group of Central American asylum seekers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The group of women and children had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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It can also cause physical symptoms, said Dr. Ana María López, president of the American College of Physicians.

"The lifetime impacts range from behavioral problems and mental health trauma to a person’s physiology," she said.

“It can raise the risk of chronic illness — cardiovascular disease and even cancer,” Lopez added. “From a health perspective this approach is really hurtful and damaging to families.”

Health specialists at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health signed a letter saying the policy violates international conventions.

“These family separations violate the most widely ratified of all human rights conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the letter, signed by the school’s dean Ellen MacKenzie, vice-dean Dr. Joshua Sharfstein and others, reads.

They dispute the administration’s argument that they are treating the would-be immigrants like they would any other criminals.

“In fact, the administration is separating families who are following procedures to apply for asylum at the border, not having violated any law,” they said.

“Moreover, other families who have been detained after crossing the border are fleeing violence for a safer life and will seek asylum at the first opportunity to do so. These families have not committed a felony and should not be treated as threats to public safety.”

Border officials have also defended the policy by saying they’re worried about human trafficking.

“If you have an adult male and a teenaged girl, that probably makes sense,” said Kraft.

“If you have a 2-year-old crying for mommy, that is probably not a human trafficker.”

 

 

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