Op-ed: Infants Suffering on the Front Line of Family Separation Crisis

(Photo/Public Domain)

In the ever-worsening immigration crisis, children as young as infants are being ripped apart from their parents, forced to endure harrowing detentions, and even made to stand before immigration judges.

At least 70 children under the age of 1 have been ordered to appear before an immigration court for deportation proceedings since October of last year, according to Kaiser Health News, citing recently obtained data from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“For babies, the basics are really important. It’s the holding, the proper feeding, proper nurturing,” Shadi Houshyar, director of early childhood and child welfare initiatives for Families USA, told Kaiser Health News.

For children this young, medical experts explain, hands-on care and bonding are critical to their healthy development, Kaiser Health News wrote. Being thrust into such circumstances will no doubt have irrevocable impacts on these children, many of whom are barely able to even talk.

“This is to some extent a… crisis of the creation of the government,” Robert Carey, former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, told Kaiser Health News. “It’s a tragic and ironic turn of events.”

Just earlier in the month, NPR reported that a 1-year-old Honduran boy named Johan was separated from his father and had to appear in immigration court with just his attorney. NPR wrote:

John W. Richardson, the judge at the Phoenix courthouse, said he was “embarrassed to ask” if the defendant understood the proceedings. ‘I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,’ he told Johan’s attorney.”

On Long Island, there is at least one fortunate family separated at the border who was recently reunited, Long Island Business News reported last week. In June, a mother and her two children under 12 years old were detained at the Texas border and sent to opposite ends of the country. The children were shortly thereafter sent to relative sponsors on Long Island. Luckily, their mother also rejoined them just days ago.

Whether they’re under 12 months — or 12 years — of age, the family separation crisis continues to sow trauma in the hearts and minds of our youngest and most vulnerable immigrants. Despite federal courts putting a stop to some of Trump’s draconian zero-tolerance madness, the damage is already done and will continue to magnify unless dramatic action is taken to undo the terrors of the Trump White House.