More than 500 immigrant families remain separated today. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration separated children from their parents at the border in an attempt to dissuade them from making the journey into the United States. Since then, a federal court ordered the government to reunite the families it separated as part of its “zero-tolerance” policy, but still hundreds have no ideas where their loved one remains. And for the parents who have once again been able to hold their children in their arms, it hasn’t all been joyous. In a video the ACLU shared, a woman embraces her toddler, as she repeatedly tells him she is his mother. It’s a reminder that the damage the Trump Administration has caused has long-term effects.
The 3-year-old boy squirms in his mom’s arms and attempts to push her away, as the woman says, “I’m your mommy, sweetheart. I’m your mommy.” She cries and chases after the boy, who doesn’t want his mother to hold him.
The young boy arrived into the United States with his father, Ever Reyes-Mejia, in April 2018. One day, immigration officials in a Texas detention center woke up Ever, who slept on the floor next to his son. When Ever asked if he should take his son with him, officials told him there was no need. He thought it’d only take a few seconds. Instead, it began one of the family’s toughest moments as Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed the young boy at Bethany Christian Services, a foster care agency in Michigan, according to the ACLU.
Ever and his son remained apart for three months, until July 10. And they then traveled to Houston to meet the young boy’s mother and 5-month-old sister, which is when the toddler walked away from his mom.
When the separations first became public knowledge, mental health professionals spoke out about the trauma it would cause children and their parents. Some even warned the White House of these dangers before the policy went into effect. Commander Jonathan White of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps voiced his concerns last year. “Separation of children from their parents entails significant harm to children,” White said in response. “There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.”
And it also is traumatizing for parents. For this toddler’s mom, it was incredibly challenging. “I felt like I could no longer take anymore. My soul was destroyed,” she said. “I didn’t know where he had gone or know if my son was alone in a cage without his father. I counted the minutes until I saw him, and when they told me he was on his way over I felt like I wanted him here that second, my soul couldn’t take it, but I am happy with my son.”