Focus Inquiry, Section 031
The Horrific Outcome of Zero-Tolerance
As Americans we are encouraged to challenge policies and authority. As news sources have reported in recent months families have been separated at our border with Mexico. As many of you know, this problem has drastically escalated this year due to the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance policy. You are probably thinking, good we should keep the policy because it will deter others from coming. But, that is just not the case because these families are coming here for safety. They are truly fleeing extreme violence in their home countries and, they will do whatever it takes to come to America to make sure their family is safe and out of the path of violence.
The zero-tolerance policy separates the families because it requires a criminal prosecution for all adults detained at the border and, as the parents go through prosecution children cannot be held with them in the criminal jails, because of child protection laws. Although, in most of these cases these laws do not protect the children, they deprive them of the physical and emotional bonds they have with their parents. Other administrations like the Bush and Obama administrations held the parents in a different location while the awaited their trails so that the children could be held with at least their mothers. Laura Woods, writes in her article that there have been over 2,300 cases of children being separated from their parents including toddlers and infants, which is a result of the new policy. All this happening before June of 2018 and as we all know; the number has just climbed since then.
Once the children get ripped away from their parents, they get placed in shelters until they can be released to a family member or legal guardian. Brown University states in an article that these shelters are anything but comforting, in most cases they are simply giant tents, and in other cases they are old military base warehouses, that are run down. These shelters are noticeably primitive, lacking separate sleeping areas for girls and boys and in some cases, the children are forced to sleep on rock hard, concrete floors. These shelters also lack nutritional resources like healthy protein rich foods, they also have very minimal medical treatment for things like dental and mental health, which these children need. Furthermore, there are no touch rules at these shelters which are in place to prevent inappropriate contact from caregivers, but sadly this deprives the young children of physical and emotional comfort that they need. This causes serious psychological problems for these younger children and has really bad effects on their mental health, which they have barely any treatment for.
Fiona Danaher from Mass General Hospital for Children writes that The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also known as the AACAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with hundreds of other national organizations, all want these horrific new policies to be reversed because having these children separated from their parents causes harm to their brains that can be irreparable. Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, states that the separation of these families causes toxic stress, which refers to the negative impacts of the environment on the psychological stress systems of young children. This kind of stress disrupts the architecture of the brain and in many cases results in permanent damage. The AACAP notes that “maternal support has been shown to strengthen neuroprotective factors in the brain during childhood, when the children’s brains are most vulnerable.” (as sited in Woods, 2018) Therefore, separating these young children from their parents in times of extreme stress can potentially cause serious and long-lasting negative impacts on their brains. Once the parents are done with their trials they can then go to claim their children, but sadly there is no uniform way to identify which child belongs to whom, this causes the families to be separated for even longer. Being separated in the same country for this long period of time is terrible enough but, in some cases, parents are deported to their home countries without their children, which makes the situation even more tragic.
Now that you have heard what is happening at our border I hope you agree that this heartlessness needs to come to an end. The policy that we are letting our government use to separate these innocent family’s needs to be changed immediately, and all the families need to be reunited as fast as possible. Needlessly ripping children from their mothers and fathers goes against our fundamental American values. America is supposed to be a loving and caring country, but this does not show that at all. Therefore, the judgment call is simple, we should start treating these families as humans first and as trespassers second.
Wood, L. C. (2018, September 01). Impact of punitive immigration policies, parent-child separation and child detention on the mental health and development of children. Retrieved from https://bmjpaedsopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000338
Central Authentication Service. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/doi/full/10.1002/cpu.30339
Kraft, Colleen A. “AAP Shines Light on Effects of Toxic Stress as It Advocates for Children at the Border.” AAP Gateway, 31 Oct. 2018, www.aappublications.org/news/2018/07/24/letter072418.
Danaher, Fiona “Central Authentication Service.” VCU – Central Authentication Service, www- nejm-org.proxy.library.vcu.edu/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1808443.