The United States government, under a new Trump administration policy, has already separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents under a “zero tolerance” ruling on immigration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed on Friday. Most disturbing is the fact that they are being placed in separate holding facilities likened to the Japanese internment camps, without any clear procedure for their reunification. Without any seeming sense of humanity, Attorney General Jeff Sessions proudly described the new policy as a deterrent, stating “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” he said in a speech to law-enforcement officials in Scottsdale, Arizona. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
Psychological experts, pediatricians, social workers, mental health groups, and human rights organizations have uniformly been calling the policy of compelling children to separate from their parents dangerous, inhumane, and deeply worrisome, with likely long-term deleterious effects and irreversible developmental harm. Indeed, forced family separation has been condemned as harmful and counter to accepted human rights by many groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the United Nations Human Rights Office. It has been stated that the removal of a caregiver can create acute distress that harms a child’s ability to cope and self-soothe, which can lead to a host of lifelong psychiatric disturbances, mood conditions, interpersonal relational disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In vulnerable developing brains, that can be especially harmful. Additionally, these groups have uniformly stated that using children to control parents and manipulate adult decisions is both abusive and mentally traumatic.
There have been several surprising outcomes in terms of vocalized opposition to the new family separation plan. Breaking with conventional party ideologies, five Republican Senators have spoken out against the policy. Namely, Susan Collins from Maine, Jeff Flake from Arizona, Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, Ben Sasse from Nebraska, and James Lankford from Oklahoma have all vocalized their opposition to separating children from their parents. In another unexpected move and in a rare statement on a policy issue, first lady Melania Trump weighed in through her spokeswoman who stated: “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families,” and stated that she believes that this is a country that should “govern with heart.” Former First Lady Barbara Bush stated yesterday that the policy is both cruel and immoral.
As a passionate and dedicated immigration lawyer and advocate for the rights of immigrants, Immigration Attorney Edward Shulman, Esq, of The Shulman Law Group, stated “I am heartened to report that the President of the governing organization for lawyers, The American Bar Association, sent a letter to the DOJ and DHS expressing strong opposition to the border separation of children from their parents noting that enforcement actions should not be used as justification to affect international family separation.