A resolution (AR-175) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vaineri Huttle, Cleopatra Tucker and John McKeon condemning the federal government’s mandate to separate immigrant children and families as part of a “zero tolerance” policy, one that led to thousands of divided families, was approved 62-2-5 Monday by the full Assembly. The resolution contends that the government’s directive, issued in response to unauthorized crossings at the country’s southwestern border, was sanctioned child abuse.
“Although President Trump has signed an executive order ending these separations, the administration still has no real plan for how to reunite those children with their parents. More than 2,500 children woke up today without their parents. The questions now become ‘where are the children who were separated from their families prior to the order, when will they get reunited, and how will they get reunited?’,” said Vaineri Huttle (D-Bergen).
The order states that, while the federal government will still press criminal charges against those attempting to cross the border illegally, it will do so while developing ways to keep families together during this legal process.
“It’s important that we get these children back to their families as soon as possible,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “This is a reflection of what happened during slavery when families were separated, and they still have not recovered. We can’t allow this to happen. These separations could last months or longer, because there are few protocols in place to determine how and when these families will get reunited. The longer these children are kept away from their parents, the greater the likelihood that they will suffer physically or emotionally.
”According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Psychiatric Association, who combined represent more than 250,000 physicians and were part of an escalating number of individuals, groups and bi-partisan elected officials opposing the zero tolerance policy, keeping children away from their families could cause irreversible health complications.
Some experts suggest separation may lead to short-term developmental delays and long-term health issues including heart disease and morbid obesity. Parent-child separation also can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression in adolescents. In addition, young children whose parents were detained may experience behavioral changes such as withdrawal, numbing, anger, crying and changes in eating habits.
“More than 2,500 children were separated from their parents because of the zero tolerance policy,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “We need to get these children where they belong—with their parents, guardians or other loved ones.”
The resolution was introduced to the full Assembly last week. It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.