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Psychological effects of separating kids from parents

On the psychological effect of separation from parents (ABC News on 18 June):

“Two of the most damaging childhood adversities are loss of the attachment bond with the parents and childhood physical and sexual abuse,” University of Texas psychiatry professor Luis Zayas told ABC News. “If you want to damage someone permanently, expose him or her to one or both of these traumas.”

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After visiting a shelter in Texas, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Colleen Kraft, in a television interview, likened what she saw to abuse.

"It is a form of child abuse," Kraft told CBS News. "This type of trauma can be long-lasting, and it's difficult to recover from this. We know very young children go on to not develop their speech, not develop their language, not develop their gross and fine motor skills and wind up with developmental delays."

Similarly, the Washington Post on 19 June:

This is what happens inside children when they are forcibly separated from their parents.

Their heart rate goes up. Their body releases a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Those stress hormones can start killing off dendrites — the little branches in brain cells that transmit messages. In time, the stress can start killing off neurons and — especially in young children — wreaking dramatic and long-term damage, both psychologically and to the physical structure of the brain.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements against it - representing more than 250,000 doctors in the United States. Nearly 7,700 mental-health professionals and 142 organizations have also signed a petition urging President Donald Trump to end the policy.

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[In a study of children in Romanian orphanages:] Those separated from their parents at a young age had much less white matter, which is largely made up of fibers that transmit information throughout the brain, as well as much less gray matter, which contains the brain-cell bodies that process information and solve problems.

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The [Romanian] children, who had been separated from their parents in their first two years of life, scored significantly lower on IQ tests later in life. Their fight-or-flight response system appeared permanently broken. Stressful situations that would usually prompt physiological responses in other people - increased heart rate, sweaty palms - would provoke nothing in the children.

* * *

Research on aboriginal children in Australia who were removed from their families also showed long-lasting effects. They were nearly twice as likely to be arrested or criminally charged as adults, 60 percent more likely to have alcohol-abuse problems and more than twice as likely to struggle with gambling.

In China — where 1 in 5 children live in villages without their parents, who migrate for work — studies have shown on those "left-behind" children have markedly higher rates of anxiety and depression later in life.

Michael H Fuchs, former deputy assistant secretary of state for east Asian and Pacific affairs, wrote in The Guardian on 20 June:

As George Takei — who was imprisoned by the US government in an internment camp as a child during the second world war — pointed out, not even those Japanese-Americans imprisoned during the war were separated from their parents. In America today, border agents reportedly told parents their children were getting bathed and then never came back, evoking Nazis taking away children in death camps and telling people being led to the gas chambers that they were going to take a shower.

The former Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Sandweg, said that "permanent separation" has been known to happen. NBC News on 19 June paraphrased his observation "that migrant parents separated from their children at the border are sometimes unable to relocate their child and remain permanently separated...While a parent can quickly move from detention to deportation, a child's case for asylum or deportation may not be heard by a judge for several years because deporting a child is a lower priority for the courts..." On 20 June, the Detroit Free Press reported that 50 immigrant children had already arrived in Michigan to be put in foster care. "Trump administration officials," the Associated Press wrote the same day, "say they have no clear plan yet on how to reunite the thousands of children separated from their families at the border..."

"By all accounts, this has happened as early as October 2017. About 700 children were separated from their guardians and at least 100 were under 4 years old, according to The New York Times," Ricky Riley wrote for Blavity on 18 June. Riley shared actress Reagan Gomez's recommendation "to not compare our present to 'The Handmaid's Tale' but instead examine the past and think about what happened to Native American children and enslaved black children. Native children were taken from families and placed in schools where they were forced to assimilate."

A Boston Globe editorial on 20 June noted: "At least 2,300 children have been separated from their parents since early May." They added: "Contrary to the White House’s spin, family separation on the scale of the last few weeks is unprecedented. The shift can be traced to Miller, Trump’s anti-immigrant whisperer, a veteran of his presidential campaign. Miller is a longstanding supporter of restricting immigration, both legal and illegal; he also coauthored the administration’s ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries. Turning twisted notions of white nationalism into policy is the role Miller seems to have prepared for his whole life."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions helped implement the new policy over the past few months and then publicly quoted a Biblical passage from Romans 13 to justify why it is important to follow the law. Ed Kilgore wrote for New York Magazine:

Those who are unacquainted with the Bible should be aware that the brief seven-verse portion of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans has been throughout the ages cited to oppose resistance to just about every unjust law or regime you can imagine. As the Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum quickly pointed out, it was especially popular among those opposing resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act in the run-up to the Civil War. It was reportedly Adolf Hitler’s favorite biblical passage. And it was used by defenders of South African Apartheid and of our own Jim Crow.

Hundreds of clergy and laymembers of the United Methodist Church, of which Sessions is a longtime member, signed a letter raising formal church charges against him including his use of Romans 13 which they argued was a false doctrine.


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