Despite an executive order to end the policy allowing separation of migrant children from their parents, followed by a judicial order to reunify those families, our government continues to separate and traumatize children.

You could be forgiven for thinking both orders would have ended the matter. However, that’s not the situation, and certainly not the situation the 5,700 children in Texas shelters.

There were loopholes in the court’s decision: children could still be separated from parents with criminal histories, or considered dangerous to the child, or if they suffered communicable diseases.

All seemingly reasonable stipulations, except that advocacy groups who are face to face with these families are reporting the government is inappropriately exploiting those loopholes. Examples include children taken away from a parent for violations such as driving with an expired license or experiencing a brief hospitalization. They can also be separated from other relatives such as siblings or grandparents. We would never tolerate such flimsy pretenses for taking away children from U.S. citizens.

This result has been more than 700 immigrant families separated after the policy supposedly ended.

The organization I lead, TexProtects, the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, makes no claim to immigration policy expertise. We’ll leave the crafting of immigration crisis solutions to those who do.

Instead, our expertise is in children and policy that impacts them, specifically, how to keep children safe from trauma. And make no mistake — being separated from a parent, regardless of the situation, is itself an extreme trauma.

TexProtects fights to make families stronger and more resilient, helping prevent crises that lead to child removal. Putting children in foster care must be the measure of last resort — all options for keeping a child safely with his or her parents must be explored before taking the extreme measure of separation.

We’ve worked to embed this philosophy within our government, gaining lawmakers’ support for prevention programs and strengthening family preservation services.

That’s why the current policy is unthinkable. The government, rather than protecting children from harm, is actually inflicting trauma upon children as a instrument of policy.

The trauma goes beyond taking children away from parents. Recent news reports have exposed children, including toddlers, being warehoused in horrific and dangerously unsanitary conditions.

This will not be a minor event in these children’s lives. TexProtects spent the legislative session educating lawmakers on “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) — severe events such mental illness, violence or substance use within the home, an incarcerated caregiver, or abuse or neglect.

In our ACEs Uncovered report earlier this year (, we outlined long-term consequences that can result from such experiences.

Research has shown that left untreated, people who suffered multiple adverse childhood experiences had, in adulthood, higher rates of disease, disabilities, social and mental health problems including suicides and suicide attempts, depression, risky sexual behaviors, obesity, smoking, substance abuse, and early death.

Now, we — through our government — are creating more children who, assuming they survive this ordeal, could grow up with such health consequences.

As said, TexProtects will “stay in our lane” on immigration and refugee policy and refrain from suggesting what actions should be taken.

However, we have a moral imperative to rule out what action should not be taken: willfully traumatizing children absolutely cannot be an option.

Americans are outraged when parents abuse or neglect children. We must be equally outraged when our government does the same.

Sophie Phillips is CEO of TexProtects.

(8) comments

Carlos Ponce

Thank you for your concern, Sophie. CPB is doing the best it can with the task they have been given but Congress has stymied their efforts. CBP agents have brought clothing, toys and other items from their own homes to help out. Pastor Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said, "I read the reports, I saw the news clips. I just wanted to see what was actually happening in order to better enable our efforts to find a fair and a just solution to our broken immigration system. To my surprise, I saw something drastically different from the stories I've been hearing in our national discourse. Even as a veteran of immigration advocacy in the U.S., I was shocked at the misinformation of the crisis at the border. We found no soiled diapers, no deplorable conditions, and no lack of basic necessities. We were witnessing the identical conditions the attorneys saw when they toured the facility days earlier." Interesting that the Congresswoman reporting "abuse" at the facilities also voted against bills for humanitarian aid to the border. Are conditions ideal? No there is overcrowding. The government placed an order for beds from Wayfair but Wayfair workers in Boston walked out in protest. They protested CBP but the $200,000 worth of Wayfair beds were bound for a shelter operated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) not US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Dan Freeman

Apparently the Pastor visited camps not covered by the Inspector General of Department of Homeland Security, which has issued a Management Alert where “…we encourage the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley….During our visits to five Border Patrol facilities and two ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley, … (we) observed serious overcrowding and prolonged detention of unaccompanied alien children, families, and single adults that require immediate attention. Border Patrol was holding …3,400 longer than the 72 hours generally permitted.” “Border Patrol’s custody data indicates that 826 of the 2,669 children at these facilities had been held longer than the 72 hours ….children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers … children had limited access to a change of clothes; …two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals — as is required by the TEDS standards — until the week we arrived." The report continues to summarize the conditions reported by Ms Philips. Correcting these conditions would be a true Pro-Life action.

Carlos Ponce

Would be helpful if Democrats in Congress would help in providing all legislation, funding asked for by CBP and HHS.

Carlos Ponce

Pastor Samuel Rodriguez visited he same CBP facility AOC visited.

Dan Freeman

You failed to address the actual conditions. Trump could cancel on F-35 and solve the problem.

Carlos Ponce

Cancel an F-35........ Not a good move.

Carlos Ponce

I'm glad Dan Freeman wasn't there at the onset of WWII.... He would urge FDR to cancel those "Flying Fortresses" because those bi-planes still had plenty of life in them.

alvin sallee

Thank you for a well researched, logical assessment of this how this administration has establish the conditions where child abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse occur. It is the law that all citizens who suspect child abuse must report it to the state, law enforcement or protective services. I speak as a licensed social worker who serves as an expert witness and has investigated similar conditions. In those cases, children were immediately returned to their parents, or placed in safe foster homes if their own homes were dangerous. Our government's actions do recall World War II in Germany, but it had nothing to do with airplanes!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.