Watch CBS News

Medical Community Warns Of Trauma To Undocumented Children Separated From Parents

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Housed in tent cities and makeshift shelters, children of undocumented immigrants have become the temporary orphans of America's war on illegal immigration.

"It's horrible," says Dallas therapist Ashley Berges. "This is almost like a wartime experience."

In the midst of this ever escalating fight over illegal immigration-- a stern warning from the medical community: don't overlook the consequences-- emotional and otherwise-- on the children being forcibly separated from their parents.

"If we are putting them through trauma, stress, anxiety." says Berges, "This stuff is going to come back and bite us on the butt."

Berges has built a career working to help clients overcome traumas that often were not of their choosing...and believes America can do better than the heartbreaking scenes coming from our border.

tent cities at U.S.-Mexico Border
tent cities at U.S.-Mexico Border

"Think about the impact of a 2 to 3-year-old being pulled out of their mother's arms," urges Berges. "That to me can change somebody for absolutely ever and for a therapist to have to go back and work through that-- that abandonment issue? That can rewire their brain and change them forever."

Other experts specializing in child trauma agree.

"It's very serious," says Michelle Rachui, a clinical therapist at the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center. "It will affect them for the rest of their lives."

The Child Advocacy Center is best known for helping child survivors of abuse rebuild their lives. As such, they are experts in recognizing and treating childhood trauma. She says without intentional and consistent intervention, trauma--regardless of the source-- can absolutely shape young lives.

"You see it in their body language... the dejection... how they talk about themselves," says Rachui. "A lot of times it takes away their self worth-- my caregiver is going to be the most important person in my life to give me that self worth, to give me that hope for life, so in situations where there is trauma, sometimes that caregiver goes away, I don't know who I am anymore, I don't know where my self esteem comes from anymore."

According to the Department of Homeland Security, some 2,000 children have been separated from parents caught crossing into the country illegally since late April. Some experts have called the separations "child abuse." Regardless of the word attached, there is a growing discomfort in communities across the country with how "zero tolerance" plays out in the real world and within the lives of children.

"I think this is really cruel," says Berges. "It's a cruel thing and we need to figure out some other way of doing this because it's a sad state of affairs."

On Monday, U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced plans to keep parents and their children together at the border.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.