Asylum-seeking children separated from families at US-Mexico border suffer PTSD

A recent study has shown that the zero-tolerance immigration policy enforced by previous high-ranking government officials to deter acts of federal criminality may have resulted in psychological trauma among some children implicated.

The zero-tolerance immigration policy was put into motion to ensure the national security of Americans and the enforcement of federal immigration laws. However, some human rights groups have slammed the measures taken by former government officials, calling the decision to reinforce the rule of law: “government-sanctioned child abuse.”


According to new findings in PLOS One, in 25 families who were separated at the US-Mexico border, practically all parents and children had demonstrated sufficient symptoms to meet the criteria for a psychiatric condition, even after having been reunited.

Based on the findings, the mental health complications experienced included post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders.

“This is a very important study. It’s extremely important for policymakers to understand the consequences of these actions,” said co-author Alan Shapiro in a news release.

“The memory of the fear doesn’t just go away. And the reunion, itself, is not necessarily a smooth process. Children can be angry; parents can be guilt-ridden.”

The findings were the result of an examination of records belonging to 31 parents and children all of which had been separated the US-Mexico border. Mental health evaluations were administered among the parents and children, with the vast majority, or 16 of 19 adults having met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD or an affective disorder.

“Our analysis of 31 medico-legal affidavits of parents and children directly affected by forced family separation shows nearly uniform negative mental health outcomes,” the authors of the study affirmed in their findings.

“To our knowledge, this is the first qualitative analysis of the mental health effects of the “zero tolerance” policy, as assessed during in-depth interviews by experienced clinicians.”

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