Doctors and social workers warn that children held in migrant detention centers can develop serious health problems.

Office of Refugee Resettlement/Handout via USA TODAY NETWORK

Detaining Migrant Children Without Parents Creates Health Risks, Experts Say

June 28, 2018 - 10:34 am
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By Carrie Hodousek

Migrant children separated from their parents and held in detention centers, even for short periods of time, can develop post-traumatic stress, according to experts. 

The indefinite isolation from their parents combined with the harsh conditions of the facilities can have a lasting impact on a child's development, according to  Luis Zayas, dean of the school of social work at the University of Texas. 

"All of this really affects the child's brain growth and social, emotional  and cognitive development very seriously," said Zayas on a conference call with reporters.  "It causes problems in learning, in problem solving, decision making and in reading social cues."

Such problems can arise even for children who are detained for a single day, experts said. The conditions inside the detention centers includes open toilets, sleeping on floors, insufficient food and cold temperatures.

The open toilets, insufficient food, cold temperatures and lack of proper beds found in some detention centers can harm the children, said Dr. Lanre Falusi, a pediatrician. 

"[They] are all really traumatizing for these children who've already been through so much," Falusi said. 

The effects of the detention centers on children is part of the debate over President Trump's tough border policy that took effect earlier this year. In recent weeks, immigration officials had detained more than 2,000 migrant children apart from their parents. The adults face possible criminal prosecution for illegaly entering the country.

Trump abandoned the policy after a public outcry and mounting pressure from Democrats and some Republicans. However, Congress voted down an immigration bill on Wednesday that would have allowed children to be detained with their parents. 

The controversy has reached the Bay Area. Two adolescent girls were taken from their parents after allegedly crossing the border earlier this month and brought to s suburban home in Pleasant Hill that's run by a nonprofit. The so-called shelter also houses unaccompanied minors who entered the country.