The Trump administration used the welfare of other people’s children as a deterrent, a bargaining chip in an immigration policy debate, and there has been a real cost in human terms. The psychological and health damage done by forcibly separating children from their parents is clear. And now that the country is paying attention to the conduct of its government on the border, we’re starting to see the damage that has been inflicted by this policy. The head of public hospitals and clinics in New York City on Thursday announced the city’s facilities have treated 12 children over the past couple of weeks separated from their parents at the border for a range of physical and mental illnesses, including one child that was suicidal.
Health and Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz addressed the issue in an open letter Thursday, as well as the “distraught physicians, social workers, and other health care providers in our health system” that “are seeing first-hand the serious health impact to children of immigrants.”
After separation, some of these children have ended up in our Emergency Departments accompanied by their government-appointed guardians who are often unfamiliar with the children, have no access to medical records, and have no way of getting in touch with a family member to get a medical history. We have seen children as young as five and have treated teenagers who have presented with signs of anxiety, trauma, and stress-related illness, including one extreme case of a teen with suicidal ideations after being separated from his mother. We know the health risks associated with tearing apart children from their families are very real, including an increased risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and attention-deficit disorder. And the demand on health care professionals in NYC and across our country will undoubtedly continue to grow.
There are an additional 239 separated children being treated at Cayuga Centers in East Harlem, the New York Daily News reports, but “the city does not currently have access to facilities of Cayuga Centers or other providers to offer on-site mental health services.”