On July 31, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on family separations at the US border, a consequence of recent changes in US immigration policy. The hearing identified and discussed legal, operational, and ethical challenges to the policy, in addition to touching on the topics of the policy’s origins and potential alternatives.
One specific point that was raised at the hearing connects with the research interests and expertise of many SPR members: in the hearing, Health and Human Services Commander Jonathan White stated that in the early planning stage of the policy, he had warned the Office of Refugee Resettlement about the trauma that some children may suffer as a result of the policy.
The psychological risk of family separation has thus become one important element in a larger cultural and political debate on immigration and border security. This gives psychologists and neuroscientists an incentive to join the public discourse by providing accurate information on the mechanisms and consequences of this particular type of early life stress. In an effort to facilitate a constructive debate of this particular element of the wider topic, we talked about this with researcher and SPR member Dr. James Coan.