Medical experts are cautioning that there are long-term health risks for migrant children who are separated from their parents, including "irreparable harm" to those children's lifelong development.
“[It can] cause irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture,” American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Colleen Kraft told BuzzFeed News this week. “Immigration has become so politicized. We would really like people to sit back instead and think of the health of these children.”
Based on past research, Kraft said, children who are forcibly taken from their parents have demonstrated links to asthma, obesity and cancer, in addition to tendencies toward substance abuse, developmental delays and mental health issues.
According to child psychologist Megan Gunnar, the age at which children are taken can also have a profound effect on their future health.
“The age of the child matters,” Gunnar told BuzzFeed News. Children under age 10, especially, are of utmost concern, according to Gunnar. “Those under 5 should get us all running around with our hair on fire to get this practice stopped.”
Separation, Kraft said, can cause “toxic stress” that disrupts brain development in children and have long-term health effects.
Kraft, this week, had visited a shelter for migrant children in South Texas, according to NPR.
She reported that staff there told her federal regulations prevent faculty from touching or holding children to soothe them.
The Trump administration began implementing its "zero tolerance" policy last month, aggressively prosecuting adults attempting to cross the U.S.–Mexico border illegally. The policy has led to thousands of separations as a result of children and adults having to be prosecuted separately.
The number of immigrant children being detained by in government-run facilities has soared under the new policy.
The practice has been widely denounced by those across the political spectrum, though President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE has sought to link the policy to Democrats. Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would eliminate the practice.