By John Rapp and Anita Andrew
Even though the Trump administration has now issued an Executive Order stating that it will stop taking children and babies from their parents when they attempt to enter the United States along our southern border, the damage has already been done.
We would like to appeal to Trump supporters to hold Trump and everyone connected to this shameful treatment of children and parents accountable for their callous actions. It may not be possible to eliminate the scars this policy has inflicted on the children. The children may never recover completely from these painful experiences, especially since it looks as though they will now still be imprisoned along with their parents.
WE WRITE today to tell you our personal story of how parental separation can hurt a child. Our story deals with international adoption from China and has a happy ending, but the events affecting the children of asylum-seeking immigrants reminded us immediately of the pain our own daughter suffered.
We are China specialists and the parents of two children adopted from China. We adopted our first child when she was almost 6 months old in 1995 during the height of the enforcement of China's controversial and harsh set of reproductive regulations collectively known as the One Child policy. International adoption from China to the U.S. began in the early 1990s. Since that time, nearly 100,000 Chinese children have come to this country as instant citizens.
These children were relatively lucky. From the minute the children landed at an American airport, they were greeted by smiling customs officers with "Welcome to America!" and treated with respect.
YET every one of these children was affected in some way by the trauma of separation from their birth families in China and living in Chinese orphanages prior to adoption, whether for months or years.
According to a note left in her jacket pocket, our first daughter was given up and taken to an orphanage about two weeks after her birth, which in all likelihood shows the great courage and stubbornness of her birth mother in resisting for that long the almost certain intense pressure from the authorities and her husband's family to abandon the baby because they felt they had no other choice. While our daughter was fortunate to only have to stay in an orphanage for five and a half months, it nevertheless did her great harm to be without a parent for that long.
With her permission, we can tell you now that she suffered from night terrors, sleep paralysis, and other forms of extreme separation anxiety for at least ten years after, and she still has some after-effects today as an adult.
THE Trump/Sessions policy of taking away children from their parents immediately brought back these painful memories of seeing our own daughter suffer so much because she was warehoused for months before we met her. When we saw babies and young children forcibly separated from their parents, who in many cases are legally seeking asylum, we could only imagine the damage it will cause to the children.
Psychologists and other medical specialists report that the after-effects of such forced separation, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, may be lifelong. Contrary to the false claims of the Trump administration and its supporters in Congress and the media, there was absolutely no necessity to enforce this policy, and it is indeed a change from past practice.
The fact that Trump says that he is now suspending this policy shows that he didn't have to do this in the first place (and who knows how long it will take for parents to get their children back, if ever - Trump offers no guarantees).
THE UN has called this policy a violation of fundamental human rights, Catholic and Protestant clergy alike have denounced the policy as at odds with all Christian principles, and politicians and pundits of all stripes have called for this policy to end, yet the Trump administration persisted in enforcing this policy until it was faced with an overwhelming popular outcry.
An increasing number of journalists and commentators have rightly referred to the policy as U.S. government-sanctioned child abuse, abuse that will continue until they are released from their internment camps. It remains to be seen what damage has been done, especially to the girls and babies whom we have yet to see or hear from.
When we do hear more stories in the coming days from social workers and others at the facilities, we will see more fully the distortions and lies the administration and its media allies have spread about the so-called "summer camps," including the "tender-age shelters" for the youngest of Trump's child hostages.
TRUMP voters: you are the key to ensuring that this terrible policy truly ends and will not come back in another form. Insist that all children be returned to their lawful parents and restitution paid.
Regardless of what you may think of the asylum-seeking parents of the children spotlighted in the news reports, just imagine what you would do if your own children had been taken away from you in this way. Take action now. Please consider telling the president and your representatives in Congress that you will refuse to vote for any Republicans at any level until this policy is fully rescinded. Just say you will withhold your vote completely until these cruel acts of family imprisonment and psychological torture are completely ended and full apologies issued and reparations made for the damage caused to the children over the last two months or more.
Until and unless this policy is fully ended and denounced, more children will suffer needlessly in the future.
John Rapp is a professor of Comparative and Asian politics at Beloit College. Anita Andrew is an associate professor of Chinese history at Northern Illinois University. The views expressed in this essay are their own and not necessarily those of their educational institutions.