Hundreds of children, from infants to pre-school age, have been sent at least three “tender age” shelters in Texas as part of the Trump administration’s policy to separate children from their parents at the border, the Associated Press reported Tuesday night
While the facilities are said to be clean and safe, visitors told the AP that the children inside were hysterical and crying.
“Toddlers are being detained.”
“The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” Kay Bellor, vice president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told the AP.
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow broke down in tears Tuesday night reading the AP report on the air.
Tough to watch… Rachel Maddow has always been rock solid. Watch her break down here trying to deliver the report that BABIES are being taken from mothers pic.twitter.com/CnbRXvvJMg
— Jared Christopher (@JaredLChris) June 20, 2018
“I apologize for losing it there for a moment. Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile,” Maddow later said in a tweet.
The shelters were compared to orphanages, which were eventually done away with in the U.S. after studies found the living situations caused severe and lasting trauma to children.
“The facilities that they have for the most part are not licensed for tender age children,” Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told the AP. “There is no model for how you house tons of little children in cots institutionally in our country.”
Doctors said the detained children could suffer lasting harm.
“Children are biologically programmed to grow best in the care of a parent figure. When that bond is broken through long and unexpected separations with no set timeline for reunion, children respond at the deepest physiological and emotional levels,” Alicia Lieberman, head of the Early Trauma Treatment Network at the University of California, San Francisco, told the AP. “Their fear triggers a flood of stress hormones that disrupt neural circuits in the brain, create high levels of anxiety, make them more susceptible to physical and emotional illness, and damage their capacity to manage their emotions, trust people, and focus their attention on age-appropriate activities.”
More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents since the policy was put into effect in early May, federal officials say. Outrage has grown, with Democratic lawmakers and religious groups condemning the policy as inhumane and un-American. Facing rising pressure, Republican senators on Tuesday called for a bill to be drawn up this week to end the separations. The entire Democratic Senate caucus has already signed onto legislation to end the practice.