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The Psychology of Border Separation: A Starter’s Discussion

by Dan Spanner

Since the spring of 2018, when President Donald Trump’s administration announced their “zero-tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration, specifically at the southern border, recent and alarming news has risen to the surface.

Beginning in December of last year, the United States of Department of Health and Human Services identified 2,737 migrant children that were separated from their parents crossing into the United States illegally, due to this zero-tolerance policy.

Even though a federal court order issued in June 2018 stated that these families be reunited, the state of this separation had already undergone, leaving children alone in government facilities, hundreds or thousands of miles away from their parents.

The recent and shocking news, though, states that thousands of more children were separated during an influx back in 2017, a fact not well-known in the public nor properly recorded by the government. Due to an insufficient system of coordinated formal tracking by those that separated the families—the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Health and Human Services, and the Department of Homeland Security—these unknown children are left unaccounted for and untraceable.

“The New York Times” reports on these findings, quoting Lee Gelernt who spoke out against the policy in voice of the American Civil Liberties Union, saying, “This report confirms what we suspected: This cruel family separation practice was way bigger than the administration let on. We will be back in court and ask the judge to order the government to explain these numbers.”

Meant as a strategy to deter families from crossing the border into the United States, this zero-tolerance policy has caused a traumatic and inhumane situation for these children and their parents.

According to “The New York Magazine,” due to the Trump administration separating supposedly thousands of more children than the 2,737 stated in court documents, the United States is now left with another pressing psychological issue for these migrant children.

“The New York Magazine” reports: “Jonathan White, who leads the Health and Human Services Department’s efforts to reunite migrant children with their parents, said removing children from ‘sponsor’ homes to rejoin their parents ‘would present grave child welfare concerns’. He said the government should focus on reuniting children currently in its custody, not those who have already been released to sponsor homes.”

With the government having no way of tracking these children that were taken from their parents, as “The New York Magazine” writes, this inhumane concern continues to fall into a deeper and more complicated pit—not to mention the psychological damage that these young children, a large amount infants and toddlers, are currently suffering and will continue to suffer from.

This discussion of the psychological whirlpool that revolves around the separation of a child and parent will continue in the “Insider” next issue, with commentary from Psychology professors from Pitt-Greensburg.

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