In early May 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained,
I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple…If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.
In the aftermath of Session’s announcement, the issue gained renewed attention as reports of child separation overlapped with concerns about the whereabouts of 1,475 immigrant-children that the government refers to as ‘unaccompanied alien children.” On May 29, The Washington Post ran a helpful explainer column to clarify the facts behind the two stories.
Whyy’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane explored the dynamics of immigration enforced in an hour-long episode on May 30, 2018. The last segment featured Re-Imagining Migration co-founder Carola Suarez-Orozco discussing psychological toll of family separation on both children and parents. You can listen to the entire espisode here.
Below is a 2012 video with Dr. Suarez-Orozco during which she describes what she learned as part of a five-year study on how newcomer children adapt to their new society. Even then, 85% of immigrant-origin youth had been separated from their children.
For more about the impact of family separations see, I Felt Like My Heart Was Staying Behind: Psychological Implications of Family Separations & Reunifications for Immigrant Youth by Carola Suárez-Orozco, Hee Jin Bang, and Ha Yeon Kim.