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Physicians: Trump’s Family Separation Policy Amounts to Torture

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New Report Underscores Ongoing and Deliberate Cruelty

There were at least 5,400 children separated from their parents in the official government tally of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” family separation effort. However, that number misses the family separations under Trump that both pre-dated the official “zero tolerance” timeframe and continue to this day through the implementation of policies such as MPP. Family separation was and is a feature, not a bug, of their cruel deterrence-only strategy.

A disturbing new report from Physicians for Human Rights, “‘You Will Never See Your Child Again’: The Persistent Psychological Effects of Family Separation,” explores the trauma and health consequences of family separation, noting:

The Trump administration’s crackdown on asylum seekers has included the brutal intimidation tactics of family separation and family detention. These policies have profound health implications for migrant adults and children and violate basic human rights, including the right to be free from torture and enforced disappearance.

… The U.S. government’s treatment of asylum seekers through its policy of family separation constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and, in all cases evaluated by PHR experts, constitutes torture.

As the Los Angeles Times wrote about the report:

Medical experts documented psychological trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. In nearly every case, the group’s medical evaluators ‘noted that the trauma suffered by the parents and the children warranted further intervention and ongoing therapeutic support.’

The report concluded that the forced separation in those cases constituted torture and enforced disappearance, in that there was a period where parents did not know where their children were and were not able to contact them.

‘The purpose of linking events with these kinds of human rights violations is because it calls attention to the obligation of the state,’ said Kathryn Hampton, a PHR Asylum Network senior program officer and coauthor of the report. ‘We are calling for accountability and for the U.S. government to take responsibility.’

According Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication at America’s Voice, “Family separation is not only a dark chapter of Trump’s presidency, it is an ongoing feature of his administration’s relentless effort to inflict cruelty on families. But as the shocking new report reminds us, they are embracing what amounts to torture and inflicting lifelong trauma on children and families in their efforts to look tough. As Trump and his campaign declare their policies at the border a ‘success’ remember this report and the fact that deterrence by way of cruelty and suffering can never constitute anything but a moral and policy failure.”

Find the full report from Physicians for Human Rights here