Immigration Abuse Leads to Child Abuse

Written on behalf of Luis Carrillo

June 29, 2018

We have all read about the horrible treatment innocent children have suffered, and continue to suffer, at the hands of a truly brutal immigration policy put in place by the current President of the United States. When abuse of children like this happens, the mass incarcerations of children and separations of mothers from their children, this will lead to continuing emotional trauma for vulnerable children.

Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics, issued the following statement in opposition to Trump’s separation of children from their parents:

​​​​“As a pediatrician, as a parent, as the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), I am appalled by a new policy reportedly signed by Department of Homeland Security that will forcibly separate children from their parents, a practice that this Administration has already been carrying out for months. In fact, during my recent trip to the border, I saw its impact with my own eyes, and I am not alone in my outrage and dismay at its sweeping cruelty. The AAP is opposed to this policy and will continue to urge the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to reverse it immediately. So many of these parents are fleeing for their lives. So many of these children know no other adult than the parent who brought them here. They can be as young as infants and toddlers.

Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians – protecting and promoting children’s health. In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children.

The new policy is the latest example of harmful actions by the Department of Homeland Security against immigrant families, hindering their right to seek asylum in our country and denying parents the right to remain with their children. We can and must do better for these families. We can and must remember that immigrant children are still children; they need our protection, not prosecution.”

An article in the Washington Post described the consequences of forcibly separating parents from their children:

“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. “The effect is catastrophic,” said Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School. “There’s so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this. “he most vulnerable were children held in detention centers without their parents.”

A lawsuit was filed recently where immigrant children who were held in a Virginia juvenile detention center were the victims of sexual abuse, including being stripped of their clothes, strapped to chairs with bags over their head and left nude in cold cells.

Of course, Trump’s sycophants and others in the Republican Part have justified the child abuse that has occurred since the Trump administration instituted it’s Zero Tolerance Policy. However, the psychological damage will continue for the children until they are reunited with their parents.

The Latino community is extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse by those in authority because even if they are here legally, they have been victimized by a system that is stacked against them and keeps getting worse every single day that Trump is waging war against immigrants. Countless Latinos have stories of how ICE or some other government agency has made their lives a living hell. I represent many dozens of minors who were the victims of sexual abuse by teachers, police and other government employees because they never felt the freedom to speak up.

In the case of these young people who are the children of immigrants, many of whom do you not speak English, this family-separation policy continues to be a breeding ground for abuse. Children in an unfamiliar setting at the mercy of strangers who have little training or oversight…what else could go wrong?

Part of what we do at our firm is to seek justice and to fight to give people a voice when they’ve been the victims of abuse, especially young people who are targeted for abuse by those in authority. We have seen all kinds of abuses, law enforcement officers who use race to engage in racial profiling to gauge whether or not someone will be stopped or arrested, teachers and coaches who groom young boys and girls of minorities, or of a certain skin color, and more. It’s absolutely shameful.

For these young immigrant children, they are too young to seek help when the federal government is tearing them away from their parents and locking everyone up in separate facilities. Luckily, civil rights lawyers and immigration lawyers are suing the federal government and the Trump administration. This President rightly deserves blame, aided and abetted by a Republican controlled Congress that has refused to do anything for the DREAMERS, or for young vulnerable children.

Child abuse is the direct result of those in authority abusing their power and not being held accountable.  Our law firm is one of many law firms that fights hard on behalf of minors who have no place else to go, and we cannot avoid this battle for justice because the cost has already been too great.

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