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Child Welfare Advocates Urge Texas Leaders To Stop Ongoing 'Trauma' At Border Facilities

Migrants under a bridge
Lynda M. González for KUT
Migrants detained by Border Patrol are held in a fenced-off area below the Paso del Norte International Bridge in El Paso in March.

Almost 40 child welfare and medical groups in Texas sent a letter to federal and state leaders Thursday expressing concern about the treatment of child migrants on the state’s southern border. They say poor living conditions are causing trauma among these children, which could have lasting effects.

The groups – which include Texans Care for Children, the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Pediatric Society and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians – say they have “deep concern” over reports of child endangerment at Texas facilities along the border.

“We urge you to support additional measures to ensure that all children and parents who are in the care of the federal government,” they wrote, “no matter their country of origin, receive compassionate, humane, and fair treatment."

TexProtects, an advocacy group working to prevent child abuse in the state, also signed onto the letter. Spokesperson Lee Nichols said the group doesn’t usually weigh in on immigration matters, but what's happening in these detention facilities has become a child welfare issue.

“We don’t know what the solution is to our immigration situation along our southern border,” Nichols said, “but what we do know is that willfully inflicting trauma upon children must not be one of those solutions.”

In the past several weeks, there have been reports of children dying in federal detention, as well as reports of children and families being inappropriately separated and denied proper access to food, clean water, clean clothing, bathing facilities, bedding and shelter.

The groups say they are concerned this poor treatment will create long-term physical and emotional impairments for families – and particularly small children.

“Early childhood trauma undermines a child’s healthy brain development and ability to form healthy attachments,” the letter states, “resulting in lifelong, negative consequences, such as chronic physical and/or mental illness and less likelihood of succeeding in school or becoming productive workers.”

The letter was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the entire Texas delegation in Congress, the state’s U.S. senators and every member of the Texas Legislature.

Nichols said lawmakers would “take this seriously” because providing humane treatment to children “is the right thing to do.” But he also said lawmakers need to step in because childhood trauma “inflicts huge financial costs that can affect our society down the road.”

He said the costs of mental health treatment, the costs of the criminal justice system and the strains on the education system are “exacerbated” by child mistreatment.

“What is happening at the border is definitely inflicting trauma upon these children, which could have a lifelong consequence for them,” Nichols said.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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