A 39-year-old Honduran mother had her 9-year-old child taken from her when she fled to the U.S. to seek asylum. It was three weeks before she was even able to speak to him, and though they were reunited two months later, she experienced depression and post-traumatic stress. She sometimes wondered whether she’d be better off dead.
Physicians for Human Rights has a name for what she endured. They say it’s torture.
…It was common for separated children to show regressive behaviors like bed-wetting or loss of language, according to the report.
…Some said their children disappeared when the parents were in court or at a doctor’s appointment or had their kids ripped from their arms. Others said they weren’t given clear answers when asked where their kids had gone, and that they were mocked by immigration authorities. They reported poor conditions at the detention centers where they were held, without any idea of how their kids were doing.
“What was a gut-punch for me — as I was reading one report, and another, and another — was the depth of the trauma, the depth of the cruelty of the agents; how they talked to some of the clients, how they misled them, how they lied to them and told them they would never see their children again,” said Dr. Ranit Mishori, co-author of the report and senior medical advisor for Physicians for Human Rights.
…All of the parents interviewed by the medical-advocacy group reported that they came to the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras shouldering a good deal of trauma already, only to see that agony and guilt compounded by separation from their children. Fifteen of the 17 adults interviewed had received death threats, for example; 14 reported that they were targeted by gang or cartels. Many had already taken other measures to protect their families before coming to the U.S., like going to local authorities or moving internally within their own country.