A new class-action lawsuit argues that the U.S. government should cover mental health treatment costs for immigrant children who were separated from their parents. The suit, filed by a group of lawyers in Federal court, also demands unspecified damages for the children who were separated under Trump’s now-defunct zero-tolerance border policy.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. This is just the latest move to unravel the damage caused by Trump’s reactionary policy. Previously, a California Federal judge ordered the end of forced separations between immigrant children and their parents. That judge also ordered the reunification of families who were already separated.
Many professionals agree that the children are vulnerable to long-term mental health consequences due to the trauma from Trump’s policy. The suit states that the resulting trauma “was life altering and it will continue to affect their mental and emotional well-being for years to come.”
According to an official count presented in court filings in late August, approximately 500 children remain separated from their families. Officials, in conjunction with cooperation from the ACLU, have been working to reunite the children with the deported parents.
The lawsuit asserts that simply reuniting children with their families does not do enough to address the underlying trauma that was initially caused by the policy.
“The damage is unbelievable, and the focus has been on reunification because, of course, the judge has ordered that. But now it’s about restoration. And that is something the government is not taking responsibility for, but so desperately needs to be done, and we’re here to make sure that happens,” said attorney Jesse Bless.
When the policy was initially announced, a number of prominent health experts and medical professionals spoke out against the zero-tolerance policy.
According to Dr. Colleen Kraft, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the policy was “nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse. It’s creating a whole generation of kids who are traumatized.”
Although the focus is now on reunification, a great deal of long-term damage has already been done. “The reunification process has been chaotic and has unequivocally come at a cost,” said Beth Krause, a supervising lawyer at the Legal Aid Society’s Immigrant Youth Project.