President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order intended to end the separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border, reversing his own administration’s policy after a national outcry.
However, many immigrant children will likely still face great turmoil, beyond the stress of the immigration experience itself. According to the new rules, immigrant families can still be detained indefinitely, as long as they’re together. It’s not clear what happens to people who cross the border before new family-detention centers are built, and 2,300 kids have already been separated from their parents. (The new policy might also be illegal, as my colleague David Graham writes.)
This kind of trauma can permanently affect the brains of these children, and potentially their long-term development, explained Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, on Thursday at the Spotlight Health Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.
In April, Kraft and some colleagues were permitted to visit a shelter for migrant children run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. She described seeing a room full of toddlers that was “eerily silent.” That is, except for one little girl, who was “sobbing and wailing and beating her fists on the mat.” A staff worker tried to comfort her with books and toys, but she wasn’t allowed to pick her up or touch her, Kraft said.