For the past few months, the Trump administration has been under intense scrutiny for its family separation policies at the U.S. border. More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents after crossing the border and placed in facilities that were, at times, several states away from where the rest of their families were being held.
As many — but not all — of these children have begun to be reunited with their parents, the psychological trauma they have experienced has become more and more apparent. The long-term consequences of this trauma are not only heart-wrenching to watch, but are also expected to be costly — yet another hardship on these broken families that the Trump administration should be held responsible for.
Most of those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border are from Central American countries that have high levels of gang violence, such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The U.S. has compounded negative mental health effects on these separated children, already scarred with the horrors they had to witness back home. Because these toxic stresses are being forced upon children during a vital developmental stage for their brains, the mental repercussions of these separations can be irreparable.
No amount of effort made by this administration will be able to reverse the severe mental and physical pain these children have had to suffer. Once these families are deported back to their native countries, parents must attempt to seek psychological help for their children within communities that may hold a strong stigma against mental illness. A vast majority of Latin American countries do not dedicate sufficient funds towards public mental health programs, and thus is unavailable to most of the population.
On top of not being able to afford mental health care back home, migrant parents are also being charged for these separations. There have been several reports of families having to pay thousands of dollars in order to fly their young relatives back to where the rest of their family is located. These immigrant families already spend every last penny they have to make the journey to the United States, and are now expected to pay this country back for a situation that was completely out of their control. How much longer can we expect migrant families to carry these psychological and monetary burdens and survive? What more can this country put them through until they reach a breaking point?
The UN Refugee Agency lists Central American immigrant families as some of “the world’s most vulnerable refugees.” Yet while separated from their parents, these children have been reportedly sexually assaulted and dehumanized by ICE agents — the same terrors they had to face back home. They are victims not only of a system back home that has failed them, but also of a large U.S. effort to reject them. They now carry more trauma than the came here with.
Although no amount will be enough to cover the psychological damages, at the very least, lifting the monetary burden off of these parents’ shoulders would be a decent place to start.
If we are to claim ourselves as a community proudly made up of immigrants, then the Trump administration must not only be held responsible for these crimes against humanity, but also monetarily responsible for the reparations.
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Email Melanie Pineda at [email protected]