The Trump administration’s policy of forcibly separating children from their parents at the border is more than callous — it’s unhealthy.
Pediatricians unanimously say that Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration can negatively impact children’s health in the short- and long-run, leading medical professionals to join the chorus of people protesting the policy.
“The effect of this type of event will follow these children into adulthood and into their entire lives,” Dr. Ana Maria Lopez, president of the American College of Physicians told CNN.
The American Psychological Association on Thursday penned an open letter to President Trump calling for an immediate change to his administration’s immigration policy.
“Families fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary in the United States are already under a tremendous amount of stress. Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children,” the letter read.
It went on to explain that adverse childhood experiences can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health disorders with long-term implications.
The APA in May issued a statement saying that “The administration’s policy of separating children from their families as they attempt to cross into the United States without documentation is not only needless and cruel, it threatens the mental and physical health of both the children and their caregivers.”
It cited “psychological distress, academic difficulties and disruptions in their development” as some of the possible negative outcomes for children.
The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that 1.9995 children were separated from their parents between April 19 and May 31 of this year.
Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a government shelter for immigrant children in Combes, Texas, where the majority of children had been separated from their families.
“Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children’s health. In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health,” Kraft wrote in a statement following her visit.
She said the experience of tearing children away from their parents can cause what’s known as “toxic stress,” which, according to Kraft, can carry “lifelong consequences” for kids.
Prolonged exposure to hormones associated with stress can disrupt children’s brain development, causing problems with motor function or speech, and even leading to the development of heart disease, cancer and morbid obesity later in life.