After more than 2,300 families were separated on the U.S.-Mexico border under a policy instituted by President Donald Trump, heartbreaking stories of the ordeal immigrant families had to endure are coming forward.
At first, the Trump administration failed to meet the deadline the court imposed to reunite immigrant children under the age of 5. Then, the few families that were actually reunited had to go through a nightmarish process riddled with a number of physical and emotional barriers.
The New York Times recently published anecdotes from migrant parents who were finally reunited with their kids, but had to deal with another tragic repercussion of Trump’s draconian policy.
Some of the migrant children were unable to recognize their parents, the publication reported.
It must be heart-wrenching for parents, who have waited for months to finally have their kids back in their arms, to be met by cries of rejection.
“He didn’t recognize me,” one parent, Mirce Alba Lopez, told the Times of her 3-year-old son. “My joy turned temporarily to sadness.”
For Milka Pablo, 35, the moment she had waited for months was equally agonizing as her 3-year-old daughter, Darly, screamed and tried to wiggle free from her embrace. That’s not the kind of welcome hug she must have had in her mind.
“I want Miss. I want Miss,” Darly cried, apparently calling for the social worker at the facility she has spent all these months with after she was separated from her mother at the southwestern border.
In another devastating story, one mother reported her children don’t call her “mami” anymore. While another said her potty-trained child had reverted back to diapers.
According to the psychological experts, the indefinite separation can take a toll on the mental health of these children, especially toddlers.
"People have been very focused on technical pieces of this process, and the egregiousness of children in cages. But they’re not thinking about most basic fundamental trauma we’re inflicting on people," said San Francisco-based Youth Law Center's executive director Jennifer Rodriguez.
Likewise, a pediatrician for the Boston-based Mass General Hospital for Children's told the Times the trauma caused by keeping these children in isolation causes "changes in physiology that promote physical and mental illness throughout the life course."
In some cases, the parents said the children believed that the other kids they were detained with were their siblings. Perhaps they just wanted to find a sense of belonging and familiarity in a foreign place.
To make matters worse, most parents with children under the age of 5 are released in the country with ankle monitors to, as one Immigration and Customs Enforcement official put, “Encourage compliance.”
Such reports, which really are not that surprising since this entire cruel enterprise has been impetuous from the start, just corroborates the fears of many mental health experts who warned about such separations.
"When that bond is broken through long and unexpected separations with no set timeline for reunion, children respond at the deepest physiological and emotional levels," said Alicia Lieberman of the Early Trauma Treatment Network.
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