Everyday we see new videos on the internet of children being reunited with their parents. Many of these undocumented immigrants have been apart for months and are only being forced to be reunited after a federal judge ruled that the Trump Administration had no right to separate families trying to enter the U.S. Whatever means these families attempted to enter the country, majority of Americans feel it was wrong to separate them under the governments “zero tolerance policy.” One thing that is clearly evident from these reunion videos is that the children have been through a lot — more than we will ever know.
But one of the most striking and heartbreaking aspects to watching these kids see their parent for the first time in weeks or months is that a lot of them look lost and in shock. Some of the kids do have smiles, but that is very rare. They mostly look confused and not coherent.
The Washington Post reported this weekend that some of the kids were threatened by the workers in these children detention centers. A second-grader told the Post that workers always “kept the boys and the girls separate” and if they broke that rule they would be punished for trying to get “near each other.” Another child reportedly had to ask for permission to hug his sister. A 9-year-old boy from Brazil told the Post that he felt like a “prisoner” and a “dog” and was quarantined alone for weeks because he got the chicken pox. If you think separating a child because he or she is sick is just being cautious, some children reportedly had to clean toilets before they could eat their breakfast.
Tonight, Guatemalan asylum seeker Hermelindo Che Coc was reunited w/ his 6-yr-old son, Jefferson at LAX. The two were separated at the border, didn’t see each other nearly 2 months. The boy had a vacant look in his eyes. Also a cough, bruise on his eye & rashes all over his body. pic.twitter.com/322p9WiIBr
— Esmeralda Bermudez (@BermudezWrites) July 15, 2018
It’s no wonder these kids are in many ways stunned to be free and near family members. They may feel unsure of what to do. Mental health specialist, Alicia Cruz (full disclosure: Alicia is my sister), volunteered with RAICES, the non-profit helping to reunite kids that were separated from their families at the border and explained briefly about the mental state of some of these kids.
We were able to get the 5 yr old back. After going from facility to facility. Watch the moment Liliana sees her son after being separated for 2 months. #ReturnLiliansBaby #EndFamilySeparation pic.twitter.com/DcXvIb6dpP
— Mana Yegani (@Law_Mana) July 15, 2018
“Some children may experience sadness, fussiness, appetite loss, fatigue, enuresis, encopresis, irritability, tantrums, or physical side effects such as headaches or belly aches or hypersomnia and/or insomnia,” Alicia said. “For children that have been separated from their parents, it is common for them to experience the symptoms mentioned above in addition to other psychological manifestations. For example, a child may be angry and blaming of their parent, reject and avoid eye contact with their parent and others, be oppositional and defiant, withdrawn, clingy, and experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety might be a long-term issue for many of these children who are in the early stages of developing attachment.”
Although we are only seeing an initial reaction of the trauma these kids have suffered through short 2 minute videos online, we have no idea what the kids experience when they’re back in a “safe place.” The recovery process for these families will certainly be a tough road ahead.