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In Light of Shocking IG Report on Family Separation, Experts and Advocates Call for Accountability as Trump Administration Doubles Down on Policies that Harm Families and Children

 

A recording of the call is available here.

Immigration and health experts and advocates gathered on a press call earlier today to discuss the harrowing DHS/OIG report on the consequences and lasting impact of the Trump administration’s family separation crisis.

While hundreds of children remain separated from their families, the Trump administration also transported hundreds of children, in the middle of the night, to a desolate tent city in Tornillo, TX where they will no longer have proper access to schooling or legal representation.

Leah Chavla, Policy Advisor for Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), said, “The Trump administration continues to show that it has little concern for the well-being of women and children fleeing life-threatening circumstances. The recent decision to transport children to desolate tents in Tornillo, Texas, as well as its plan to make it more difficult for children to be released from detention, further highlights how the administration’s policy towards children is cruel, inhumane, and geared towards punishing those children and their families for seeking protection in the United States.”    

Jennifer Podkul, Director of Policy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), said, “Right now there are still over 100 children in custody who have a parent who has been deported. One hundred and thirteen parents have made the heart-wrenching decision to waive reunification so that children could petition for protection. Family separation has had long lasting effects on families and children like Genesis, a 5 year girl from Honduras separated from her mom Lilian for two months. Lillian and Genesis now receive counseling to address the trauma of separation. Now the administration is creating a new crisis and further traumatizing children by placing them in facilities that are not held to the standards of care that they require, all the while making it more difficult for sponsors and caretakers to claim them and increasing the time they spend in these facilities.”

Jess Morales Rocketto, Director of the Families Belong Together Coalition and Political Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), said, “The Trump administration is doubling down on its family separation policy even as hundreds of children remain torn from their parents. They’re intentionally keeping 13,000 children apart from family and loved ones and using traumatized children as bait to arrest and deport family members and sponsors who come forward to bring them home. By stockpiling children indefinitely  in dangerous tent cities, the Trump administration is inflicting even more long-term mental and emotional trauma on children who already are showing signs of distress. The American people want their elected leaders to choose compassion over cruelty, and these cruel policies will be on the minds of millions of people heading to the polls in November.”

Alan Shapiro, MD, FAAP, member, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Immigrant Health Special Interest Group and co-author, AAP policy statement, Detention of Immigrant Children, said, “As a pediatrician, the OIG report didn’t surprise me, but should be a great concern for all of us. The report makes clear the zero-tolerance policy was reckless. The studies corroborated that irreparable harm is done to children when they’re separated from their families. As children develop, we know their brains change in response to the environments they’re in. Detention leads to very serious distress which is called toxic stress. Toxic stress can impair brain development and cause lasting damage. The report really spells out in black and white the consequences that the zero-tolerance policy has for children. To keep a child in one of those centers is cruel and unusual punishment.”

Ur Jaddou, former USCIS Chief Counsel and Director of DHS Watch, said, “The separation of families and the policy that clearly results in unnecessary and prolonged federal custody of unaccompanied children are the consequences of a manufactured crisis by the Trump administration. The real crises are the policies themselves and their results – extensive and irreversible damage to countless children and families.  The IG found that, it’s time for these policies to end and for Congress to step into its proper oversight role to ensure this never happens again, that people harmed by these policies are made whole again, and that children aren’t detained for any longer than necessary, and when detained it is done in the most humane way possible.”