Immigrant Children Who Are Forcibly Separated From Their Parents Face Long-Term Trauma

“This is an extremely high price for these children to pay who have done nothing wrong,” said a child health expert.


Homeland Security Department officials forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents — which has been done with nearly 2,000 of all ages since the policy went into effect in April — will likely cause many of the kids physical and psychological challenges for the rest of their lives, medical experts told BuzzFeed News.

Past research on children forcibly separated from their parents has found links to asthma, obesity, and cancer later in life, as well as substance abuse, developmental delays, and mental health problems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which opposed an immigration bill released by House Republicans on Friday for not barring forcible separation.

“[It can] cause irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture,” AAP President Colleen Kraft told BuzzFeed News. “Immigration has become so politicized. We would really like people to sit back instead and think of the health of these children.”

Keep Families Together

Around 11,000 immigrant children, mostly unaccompanied teens, are in the custody of the US Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Their numbers have increased quickly since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in policy April 19 that separated all children from parents caught entering the US illegally because children cannot be held in adult detention centers. (Previously, the adults and children were released while their immigration cases were adjudicated.) MORE at Buzzfeed News