A prominent doctor has spoken out against the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US border. saying it could have a ‘devastating’ long-term effect on their emotional well-being.
Dr Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter for children under the age of 12 that runs along the Texas border with Mexico.
The shelter in question held 60 beds and had a little playground for children. Rooms are equipped with toys, books and crayons.
To Dr Kraft, it looked like a friendly environment for children – a place where they could be happy.
But the child who caught the paediatrician’s attention during a recent visit was anything but happy. This little girl – no older than two – was screaming and pounding her fists on a mat. Yet staff members could not comfort the infant because of the rules prohibiting physical contact.
“The really devastating thing was that we all knew what was going on with this child. We all knew what the problem was,” Dr Kraft said. “She didn’t have her mother, and none of us can fix that.”
Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The little girl is among the multitude of immigrant children who have been separated from their family as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning any adult who crosses the border illegally will face criminal prosecution. That also means parents were taken to federal jails while their children were sent to shelters.
It is believed 11,432 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services – an increase of nearly 3,000 from beginning of May. These numbers include children who arrived at the border without a relative and children separated from their parents.
The policy so far has pushed shelters to their capacity. Trump administration officials are making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases. On Thursday, the Trump administration said it will house children in tents in the desert outside El Paso.
“The really basic, foundational needs of having trust in adults as a young child was not being met. That contradicts everything we know that the kids need to build their health,” said Dr Kraft after her visit to the Texas shelter.