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First-Person Accounts Bear Witness to the Lasting Trauma of Trump Family Separations on Kids, Families and Our Country

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The Trump administration’s family separations have inflicted a lasting trauma on thousands of children and families – as well as on our nation’s moral authority. While more than 2,500 minors remain separated from their parents as a direct result of Trump administration policy, dozens of children have been reunited and they, and their parents, are now sharing their stories.

Below are excerpts from just some of the powerful pieces recapping what has been done in our name by our government:

Immigrant kids held in shelters: ‘They told us to behave, or we’d be here forever,’” by Michael Miller in the Washington Post:

This is what two months in a Texas shelter had taught Sandy Gonzalez. “They always kept the boys and the girls separate,” the second-grader explained last week. “And they punished us if we went near each other.”

…“I felt like a prisoner,” said Diogo De Olivera Filho, a 9-year-old from Brazil who spent five weeks at a shelter in Chicago, including three weeks in isolation after getting chickenpox. When he got lonely and left his quarantined room to see other kids, he said the shelter put up a gate to keep him in. “I felt like a dog,” he said.

…One 11-year-old boy from Guatemala who spent six weeks in the same Chicago shelter as Diogo said he had to ask permission to hug his sister. Some of the children said they now suffer from nightmares. A few, including Sandy, have had difficulty trusting their parents again.

…Most of the children were reluctant to talk about what they went through while they were detained. “I don’t want to remember,” said one 10-year-old, who recounted watching an out-of-control kindergartner get injected with something after he misbehaved in class.

…For Sandy, it was a place of sorrow, fear and scoldings. “They told us to behave,” she said, “or we’d be there forever.”

“’I’m here. I’m here.’ Father reunited with son amid tears, relief and fear of what’s next,” by Esmerelda Bermudez in the Los Angeles Times (click through to article to access the powerful video):

For 25 days, Che Coc was detained without any news about his son. He was given a phone number to call, but the calls wouldn’t go through. When he was released with an ankle monitor and finally spoke to his boy using a relative’s phone in Los Angeles, the conversation was unbearable.

“Papa, I thought they killed you,” Jefferson told his father, crying. “You separated from me. You don’t love me anymore?” “No, my son,” Che Coc told him. “I’m crying for you. I promise, soon you will be with me.”

Che Coc was not sure what changes he might see in his son … He lifted his son into his arms and took him to a lounge set aside by the airline for the reunion. There, on a leather sofa, Che Coc kissed his son and held him tight. The boy remained stiff and expressionless. His arms, stomach and back were covered in a rash. His right eye was bruised red. He had a cough and a runny nose. He was much thinner than he was two months ago … “This is not how I gave them my son,” he said, crying. “My son has come back to me sick.”

Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention,” by Dan Barry, Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal and Manny Fernandez in the New York Times:

Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case. Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

“You had to get in line for everything,” recalled Leticia, a girl from Guatemala … The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Parents waiting to be reunited with their children write heartbreaking letter: “We are desperate,” by Rosa Flores, Nick Valencia and Susannah Cullinane at CNN:

“We were not prepared for the nightmare that we faced here. The United States government kidnapped our children with tricks and didn’t give us the opportunity to say goodbye,” they write.

…”Each day is more painful that the last. Many of us have only had the chance to speak to our children once (this is very difficult because the social workers never answer). The children cry, they don’t recognize our voices and they feel abandoned and unloved. This makes us feel like we are dead.

“With all this trauma; the nightmares, anxiety and pain that this government has caused us and our children, we still have to fight for our asylum cases,” the letter continues.

After Immigrant Families Are Reunited, Scars of Separation Remain, by Arian Campo-Flores and Melanie Grayce West in the Wall Street Journal:

Father and son were separated three months ago at a Texas migrant-detention center; the boy was sent to an agency in Michigan while Mr. Reyes Mejía was sent to another Texas facility. Now, Mr. Reyes Mejía said, his son isn’t the same. He doesn’t speak much. He wants to be constantly close to his father and worries every time Mr. Reyes Mejía steps away.

“His personality has changed,” Mr. Reyes Mejía said. “Inside, he carries like a sadness.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “We cannot look away. We are in the midst of a moral scandal of historic proportions. It is being carried out by our government, in our name, and with our tax dollars. We have families to reunite, damage to repair, cruelty to overcome and policies to change. It’s on us to raise our voices, take to the streets and demand that we respect and protect families seeking safety from harm. ”