Giving Compass' Take:

• Society for Research in Child Development explained the adverse health effects of separating and neglecting children at the border.

• Since immigration policy changes and emergency funding from the U.S. government are currently on hold, what other ways can detention services access more funding or resources? What opportunities are there in your local community to support the plight of separated families at the border?

• Read more about how immigrant families deserve better.

Caitlin Dickerson’s New York Times article titled “‘There Is a Stench’: Soiled Clothes and No Baths for Migrant Children at a Texas Center” should have us all quaking. How can government lawyers argue that no soap, lights on all night, and minimal food are safe and sanitary conditions for children? Who have we become as a nation? This article prompted the Society for Research in Child Development to issue a statement about the long-term consequences of separating children from their parents.

The Society for Research in Child Development response offers critical data that bears on the future trajectories for these children, but it does not go far enough. There is ample research to show that cleanliness, sleep, nutrition, and exercise are imperative for a growing brain.

  • No soap contributes to a disease-ridden environment, and children with health issues tend to have poor emotional skills and mental well-being.
  • Lights on all night disturbs sleep patterns that can impact brain development and future learning skills.
  • With minimal food, children do not get the nutrients they need to support healthy brain growth and may develop cognitive and socioemotional deficits that last a lifetime.
  • No exercise is a natural consequence of a border patrol that is keeping children in cells with little opportunity for recreation or physical activity—both elements central for brain development.

As a nation, we are failing to respect the dignity of human life. We risk dooming innocent children to a future in which they may never be productive citizens of any country. The science is indeed clear: The conditions in which immigrant children are held at the border puts them at tremendous risk for toxic stress and related health, mental, and cognitive outcomes that can last a lifetime.

Read the full article about neglected children at the border by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, and Virginia Rauh at Brookings.