Charities ‘strain’ to cope with US migrant chaos

The Franciscan Action Network (FAN), Faith in Action and the DMV Congregation Network hold a prayer vigil with children wrapped in survival blankets to protest the US family separation crisis

New York (AFP) – US charities are “straining” to cope with chaos on the ground provoked by America’s family separation crisis at the Mexican border, without immediate prospect of reuniting several thousand children with their parents.

US authorities have split more than 2,300 children from adult relatives who illegally crossed the border since May 5, placing them in tent camps and other facilities, with no way to contact their relatives.

Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, told reporters on a conference call Thursday that even prior to that charities were “already stretching” to meet the needs of migrant children who arrived alone.

“Now we have an additional 2,300 children in top of that population who have tremendously complex needs,” she added.

“It’s putting an additional strain on an already strained system, and it’s been done very intentionally by the administration,” she added.

On Wednesday President Donald Trump ordered an end to the separation of children from their parents at the border, exacting a policy U-turn under pressure from his fellow Republicans, Democrats and the international community.

According to multiple US media reports, citing officials from the Health and Human Services Department, there is no plan in place to reunite the thousands of children already separated from their families.

“We’ve seen no evidence of any system put in place by the government to ensure these families are communicating or reunified,” said Young. “It continues to be a chaotic process.”

Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said the government lacked the necessary information to connect families, not always taking down proper details when children are separated.

She summed up the situation on the ground as chaotic with “a lot of confusion, conflicting instructions and information.”

“It’s just another example of the standard operating procedure of this administration, to make this big bald policy announcements with no plan for how they’ll implement them and adding to the chaos on the ground,” she said.

Doctor Alan Shapiro of the American Academy of Pediatrics described seeing children in shelters exhibit developmental delays, such as no longer talking, bed wetting and becoming anxious and withdrawn.

He said he saw one child “chewing on his arm — really engaging in self-mutilating behavior” and described “really harsh” conditions of children being kept in cages, in cold temperatures with poor food and cursory medical care.

“We dehumanize children. We dehumanize immigrant families,” he said.