Dems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families

Dems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families
© Getty Images

Democrats and medical professionals on Thursday called for children separated from their families at the border to be immediately reunited to minimize any long-term harm to their mental and physical health.

“The executive order President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE signed yesterday does not resolve this crisis that he created,” said Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Hoyer wins Maryland House primary MORE (Md.) at a press conference with representatives of health groups. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“There are no plans to reunite children with their parents. They can’t even get the comfort of being told they’ll be together tomorrow, next week. Not even that comfort is offered by the president and this administration.”

Trump’s executive order mandates that families crossing the border be detained together, but does not address the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their families.

Those children can face significant harm to their mental and physical health if they aren’t reunited with their families soon, doctors warn.

“These children have been needlessly traumatized and must be reunited with their parents or other family members as quickly as possible,” said Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association.

Research shows children and parents are in danger of experiencing toxic stress as a result of lengthy separations, Evans said, which can cause disrupt children’s brain development and lead to mental and physical health problems in the future.

Potential health problems include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance use, aggressive behavior, decline in educational achievement, and even heart disease, diabetes and cancer later in life.

But the administration has not laid out a clear plan to reunite the families.

“It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter,” said Brian Marriott, senior director of communications at the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Health and Human Services Department.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters House Democrat demands answers from Secret Service about role breaking up White House protests MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'Scary' to see uniformed troops on steps of Lincoln Memorial Pelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC MORE (D-Calif.) urged Trump on Thursday to immediately reunite families that have been separated. 

"The administration has the authority and the resources to immediately begin the process of family reunification," they wrote in a letter to Trump. 

"Any delay in doing so is simply unacceptable." 

The longer children are separated from their families, the more severe some health problems may become, health experts warn. 

“We continue to worry about the health implications for the children and their families that are in custody,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

“We believe it’s very important that they expedite additional resources right now to address those children that need services, and we demand the immediate reunification of these families.”