WASHINGTON, D.C. – Children who are separated from their parents can suffer inexplicable trauma that may lead to learning difficulties, substance abuse, increased depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Democratic Congressman Raul Ruiz, who worked as an emergency room physician, is a public health expert and the father of 3-year-old twins, has seen firsthand the devastation chronic stress can have on children.
On Thursday, Ruiz who represents the 36th Congressional District, medical providers and public health experts, and Democratic Leadership called on President Trump to reunite the 2,000-plus immigrant children with their families immediately and end the psychological trauma that separation and incarceration is inflicting on these children.
The Administration’s Executive Order does not reunite families, and continues to inflict psychological trauma on asylum-seeking children by incarcerating them indefinitely in substandard conditions.
Ruiz held the early-afternoon news conference to bring attention to the severe, long-lasting negative health effects of separating children from their families, and the united cry from providers to end this inhumane practice.
“Today I brought together and stood with doctors, nurse practitioners, psychologists, public health providers, and other members of Congress to call on President Trump to immediately reunite the children with their parents, provide emotional support, and comply with current law that protects detained children,” Ruiz said during the news conference. “Separating children and prolonged detention inflicts psychological trauma and toxic stress on children, resulting in severe, long-term developmental and emotional harm. No matter your political affiliation or opinion on immigration policy, we can all agree that we must attend to the well-being of children. This isn’t about politics, it’s about decency. It’s about children.”
There is significant data on this, stemming primarily from the Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE, study, conducted by the CDC from 1995 to 1998. This study found that traumatic events such as divorce, separation from parents, being put into foster homes or sexual or physical abuse have very negative effects on children. These effects are cumulative; more than one trauma—and particularly more than four—have increasing consequences.
When children are forcibly separated from their parents without being given any information and without being able to communicate with their parents, that’s a traumatic event. And it’s unlikely that this is their first traumatic event, given the violence in many of the countries they’re coming from. So this separation is adding to the trauma they have already experienced.
“Many of these children have been victims of violence or trauma before they cross the border. For us to re-traumatize them is completely wrong. We can really do better than this,” said Dr. Susan Van Cleve, past president of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
“These children have been needlessly traumatized and must be reunited with their parents or other family members as quickly as possible to minimize any long-term harm to their mental and physical health.” said Dr. Arthur Evans, CEO, American Psychological Association.
“This is creating an enormous public health crisis for these kids,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It’s very important the Administration change its policies and practices to end this human rights tragedy.”
You may listen to Ruiz’s remarks at the news conference here.
Speakers at the news conference were:
Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36)
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12)
Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05)
Georges C. Benjamin, M.D. – Executive Director, American Public Health Association
Susan Van Cleve, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC, PMHS, FAANP – Past President, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD – CEO, American Psychological Association
Other members of Congress, physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals were also in attendance.