Separating Immigrant Families Is Harmful and Cruel Say Leading Mental Health and Social Justice Groups

Separating Immigrant Families Is Harmful and Cruel
Say Leading Mental Health and Social Justice Groups


December 28, 2017 – New York, NY – It was announced last week that the Trump Administration is considering a punitive plan that would separate children from their parents when undocumented families are caught entering the country. This deliberate, inhumane action of separating parents and children, not only goes against the norms of social justice, but also against the findings of child development studies: children separated from their parents, especially from their mothers, suffer great harm. There is a large body of literature documenting that parental separation has profound negative effects on children's "psychological well-being, scholastic achievement, social relationships, and adult socioeconomic status". The impact of the stress resulting from forced separations lasts a lifetime. Trauma is also inflicted on parents who are rendered helpless to protect their children.

Separating children from their parents based on immigration status is an act of cruelty. Children need a safe and secure environment where they can thrive - physically, emotionally, socially, and academically.  The family is the building block of a healthy society and provides the caring environment where children develop that personal sense of security and belonging critical to their ability to excel in all their undertakings. Many immigrants come to the U.S. to give their children a better life and future than was ever possible for them in their homeland.  These immigrants are hard-working and contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of our country.  Their only wish is their hope that they, and their children, be given the opportunity to prove themselves as contributing members of our American society.                                                     

We urge Krisjien Neilson, Secretary of Homeland Security, to refuse to endorse this inhumane and harmful policy.


Annette LoVoi
Director, Financial Access and Asset Building


Wylie Tene
Director of Public Affairs
212-752-0450 ext. 29
Cleonie White, Ph.D.
Kathleen White, Ph.D.
Co-Directors of the William Alanson White Institute Center for Public Mental Health


1.     The Psychosocial Impact of Detention and Deportation on U.S. Migrant Children and Families., August 2013.

2.     “Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement.” By Ajay Chaudry, Randy Capps, Juan Manuel Pedroza, Rosa Maria Castañeda, Robert Santos, & Molly M. Scott.  The Urban Institute, February 2010,

3.     “Unauthorized Immigrant Parents and Their Children's Development,” by Hirokazu Yoshikawa and Jenya Kholoptseva, Harvard Graduate School of Education, March 2013.

4.     News article, “Thousands of U.S. Children separated from parents, June 2014.

5.     “Promoting Social and Emotional Development:  Four New resources of Communities and Families with Young Children.”  Kara Dukakis, Libby Doggett and Shantel E. Meek, January 2017.

6.     “Psychological Aspects of Deportation and Child Custody”, Tomás Casado-Frankel, M.A., LMFT, and Maria Nardone, Ph.D., Protecting Assets & Child Custody in the Face of Deportation, Chapter 4 (version 5.2.17) Appleseed Network