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DeLauro, Esty, Yale Psychologists: Reunite Immigrant Children And Families Now

A young migrant family waits for the arrangements for their bus at Catholic Charities in McAllen, TX. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

A young migrant family waits for the arrangements for their bus at Catholic Charities in McAllen, TX. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, including Representatives Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Esty, Jim Himes and Joe Courtney, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, spent the weekend visiting immigrant detention centers in McAllen and Port Isabel, Texas. Congresswomen DeLauro and Esty shared what they saw with psychologists at the Yale Child Study Center on Monday.

DeLauro says the conditions were worse than what they had imagined. She described seeing children separated from their parents in “a sea of mylar. It looks to me like tinfoil. Because there are these mylar blankets which they give to kids who are sleeping and sleeping on concrete floors.”

Dr. Steven Marans of the Yale Child Study Center was also on the panel. He says trauma like this puts kids at risk of substance use disorders and criminal behavior later in life.

“All of you know the idea of the absence of a parent being replaced by the cuddly toy or the soft blanket. There’s something really quite powerful about imagining the plight of children who are in the throes of the most overwhelming experience of their lives, that all they have to cling to is a thin, aluminum-like foil. ”

Marans says children need to be reunited with their families to stop the immediate trauma of separation, so healing can begin.

“Every day that goes by increases the long-term damage. Because these same kids who are unable to be helped to recover will lead not only to PTSD but permanent inability to properly regulate feelings and thoughts.”

Marans warns that parents experience trauma, too. Esty says during a visit to a medium-security prison, they met with 15 sobbing mothers.

Visit WSHU for the full story.