The separation of immigrant families leaves lifelong consequences

Trump’s policies encouraged family separation at the borders

In a tireless effort to reduce immigration, the current administration of the US implemented multiple policies that sparked a gigantic controversy among the local population due to repercussions they created.

Speaking specifically about illegal immigration, one of the Trump administration’s strategies to curb the flow of undocumented immigrants across the country’s borders is the so-called “Zero Tolerance Policy.” This policy states that undocumented immigrants detained by border entities such as CBP (Customs and Border Protection) must face criminal prosecution for violating local immigration law.

In the Trump administration’s view, immigrants who attempt to cross borders without prior authorization are violating local law and should not have the possibility to request documentation within the US, regardless of whether they need international protection or not.

However, border entities cannot detain minors for more than a specific period of time (usually 72 hours). Thus, Trump’s zero tolerance policy led to the separation of hundreds of immigrant families at the borders.

Zero tolerance policy timeline:

  • In 2017, the Trump administration conducted a zero tolerance policy pilot program to test its effectiveness before making it official and notifying the public. During this secret program, border entities separated 1,030 children from their parents.
    Currently, from this pilot program, there are 666 children who have not been able to find their parents after more than 3 years. Humanitarian organizations involved in the case state that most parents possibly faced deportation proceedings under the Trump administration and the health crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic makes family reunification even more difficult.
  • In 2018, the Trump administration officially implemented the zero tolerance policy, which was not active for long due to the controversy it generated and the intervention of dozens of activists and immigrant rights advocates.

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The separation of immigrant families leaves lifelong consequences

According to the testimony of several immigrant families, minors separated from their relatives, who have already been reunited, are going through periods and episodes of anxiety, depression, fear, sleep problems, bipolarity, inter alia.

Mental health experts state that early family separation can lead to lifelong trauma, which could indefinitely affect the development and growth of the infant, possibly leading to psychiatric problems in the future.

In fact, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry states that “There is strong scientific consensus that early life adversity can lead to not just mental health issues down the road and into adulthood but also physiological and medical complications (…) So being able to form healthy, sound relationships can be impacted by having endured trauma of this level.”

The future of minors separated from their parents now depends on the incoming administration (Biden-Harris), which has promised to use all the tools at its disposal to reunite families separated at the borders, protect the integrity of immigrant minors and offer medical assistance if necessary.

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