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Immigrant boy tried to jump out of a window after being separated from his father

A new lawsuit shows how Trump's policy is creating extreme trauma among young children.

A one-year-old from El Salvador clings to his mother after she turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents in Texas in 2015. CREDIT: John Moore/Getty Images
A one-year-old from El Salvador clings to his mother after she turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents in Texas in 2015. CREDIT: John Moore/Getty Images

A young South American boy was so traumatized after being forcibly separated from his father at the border that he nearly jumped out of a second-story window, according to a new lawsuit filed by 18 attorneys general against the Trump administration.

The lawsuit, which includes the states of New York, Washington, and California, alleges that the family separation policy is not only unconstitutional but also “irrationally discriminatory” and arbitrary. It outlines some of the more chilling effects that tearing away children from their parents is having on their mental health.

The boy who nearly jumped out of the window said he wanted to because he missed his parents. Twelve other children had to be hospitalized in New York City hospitals because of mental and physical illnesses, including depression and anxiety. In New York state, many of the children who have been separated did not yet speak, including multiple toddlers and one nine-month-old baby.

“The administration’s practice of separating families is cruel, plain and simple,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told the Associated Press. “Every day, it seems like the administration is issuing new, contradictory policies and relying on new, contradictory justifications.”

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“President Trump’s indifference towards the human rights of the children and parents who have been ripped away from one another is chilling,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “The safety, security and well-being of our children is too important to be threatened by a heartless political maneuver.”

Last week, Trump finally caved to the outrage generated by his “zero tolerance” policy at the border and signed an executive order ending the practice of separating families. But there is still no clear plan for reuniting the more than 2,000 “separated minors” that remain in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement on Saturday that it knows the location of all the children in custody, is working to reunite them with their families and that the process is “well-coordinated.”

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However, the plan calls for the children to be reunited only after the parents’ deportation proceedings are complete, in effect leaving them in a state of limbo until they’re sent back to the dangerous communities they previously escaped from. DHS has not said whether families will be reunited before then.

In the meantime, reports found that the phone numbers given to migrant parents to contact their children wouldn’t go through, or were simply left unanswered.

While the Trump administration has maintained that the children separated from their parents are being well taken care of because they have things like food and access to television, reports from inside the facilities tell a different story. Ten Central American children can be heard screaming for their parents in harrowing audio obtained by ProPublica.

In additional audio and video, first reported by Rachel Maddow, one staffer tells the children, “If, for whatever reason, you tell a reporter [about your situation here]… then one doesn’t know what’s going to happen — if you’re going to last here a long time. I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just telling you — it’s the truth.”

The Trump administration’s family separation policy has been widely condemned by human rights and health professionals. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, slammed the policy earlier this month, calling it “unconscionable.” Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said last week that the policy amounts to “child abuse.” The American Psychological Association (APA) warned in a recent letter that the separation could result in lasting psychological trauma among the children.