This administration’s policy of separating children and parents caught illegally crossing the southern border of the United States has faced increased criticisms since it was first implemented and rightfully so. A tragic example of the consequences this policy has is demonstrated by the recent case of a Honduran woman whose daughter was pulled from her as she was breastfeeding. As harrowing at such actions are for adults, they are even more trauma inducing for children.
What we Know about how this Kind of Separation Impacts Mental Health
There are volumes of data that show traumatic events such as divorce, separation from parents, sexual abuse, etc, may have a cumulative effect on the developing brains of children. In fact, data gathered from studies conducted by the CDC from 1995 to 1998 have concluded that such events put a young child’s mind into a fight or flight response and may manifest itself in behaviors that reach far into adulthood. Experiences like these may also have long-lasting health impacts on children such as:
- Toxic Stress: Parents act as a buffer against all kinds of situations that would otherwise frighten and confuse children. Without the presence of their parents, children’s developing brains are exposed to stress inducing hormones that many permanently affect their developing brains.
- Behavioral and Emotional Issues: Some studies suggest that children who have been forcefully separated from their parents may begin demonstrate behaviors such as increased aggression, depression, etc.
- Parent Safety: Children who are separated from their parent may continue to worry about the safety of their parents even after they have been reunited.
- Fear of Future Separation: Children who are reunited with their parents may go on to worry that they may be separated again.
As of the beginning of this year, an estimated 2,300 children have been separated from their parents as a result of this administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration. And while much emphasis has been placed on reuniting families, it is not at all clear that where reunions have been possible that permanent psychological damage has not already been done. The best way to protect families in the future is for people of goodwill to continue to fight against policies that inflict such psychological trauma on children. I am Erika Roman, immigration lawyer. I fight for immigration rights in Los Angeles to protect families that are caught up in our outdated immigration system. Contact me for a free consultation about your case.