The process of reuniting them all may take months or even years
In a small village in the highlands of Guatemala, a father smiled and looked at the small screen of his mobile phone. He raised the football jersey he was wearing on the camera and pointed to the name printed on the back: Adelso.
At the other end of the video chat, in Boca Raton, Florida, her son Adelso began to cry.
Father David said on the phone in March: “I will send it to you.” “You need to be strong. Let us hug and talk again. Everything will be fine.”
David asked not to disclose his surname because he was facing death threats in Guatemala, but he has not seen Adelso in person for more than three years because they are separated from 5,500 other families at the state border. According to Trump and his administration’s most controversial immigration policy.
Experts say the distance and uncertainty of reunion prevent adults and children from rebuilding their broken lives on the border, deepening the trauma of separation. In some cases, the endless pain of separation prompts parents to retry the dangerous journey across the U.S. border. Those who do their best to return to their children are reformulating their cross-border plans to separate their children.
As of 2017, there were more than 5,500 immigrant families on the southwest border under what became known as “zero tolerance.” According to lawyers working on the matter, the 15-year-old Adelso is one of more than 1,100 immigrant children in the United States, but separated from his parents. At least 445 have been separated from their parents who have not found their parents.
In early February, President Biden signed an executive order to bring the deported parents to the United States to achieve the unification of immigrant families, which gave the separated families full of hope.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will bring a handful of separated parents to the United States in the next few days as concerns about immigration on the southwest border have reached their highest level in nearly 20 years. The process of reuniting them all may take months or even years, and the question of what benefits each family will receive remains.
According to a study by Human Rights Doctors in 2020, many children separated from their parents at the border exhibit symptoms and behaviors consistent with the trauma: post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and major depression. In some cases, this trauma is due to the experience of the child’s country to some extent, but researchers have found that this is likely to be related to the separation itself.
Psychologists who work with separated families say that family reunification is only one step in the recovery process, and parents and children need mental health counseling. Many parents blame themselves for divorce, and after reunion, children often blame their parents.