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“Part of my heart was torn away”: What the U.S. Government Owes the Tortured Survivors of Family Separation

April 19, 2022

When the news broke in 2018 that the U.S. government was forcibly separating thousands of parents and children as young as infants at the U.S.-Mexico border, nationwide outcry ensued due to the evident trauma caused by the separations. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) found that the cases of forcible family separation by the U.S. government that we documented constituted torture. PHR's torture finding was cited by the Biden campaign during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. However, as the election passed, uproar and outrage around family separation abated, but parents and children who were eventually reunited struggle to recover from severe psychological effects of the trauma they endured. Parents who were deported and separated from their children for three or even four years continued to suffer and wait in desperation for the moment when they could be with their children again.This study documents the longer-term psychological impact of this inhumane policy of forced separation on parents who were deported by the United States government, most of them separated from their children for three to four years. The persistent and damaging psychological effects documented by PHR call out for acknowledgement, accountability, redress, and rehabilitation. This study also seeks to make visible the desires of the parents who were interviewed regarding means of redress owed to them by the U.S. government. In the context of a broad discussion about redress, it is essential that the views of affected communities be directly incorporated into research and policy recommendations.

The psychological effects of forced family separation on asylum-seeking children and parents at the US-Mexico border: A qualitative analysis of medico-legal documents

November 24, 2021

The U.S. government forcibly separated more than 5,000 children from their parents between 2017 and 2018 through its "Zero Tolerance" policy. It is unknown how many of the children have since been reunited with their parents. As of August 1, 2021, however, at least 1,841 children are still separated from their parents. This study systematically examined narratives obtained as part of a medico-legal process by trained clinical experts who interviewed and evaluated parents and children who had been forcibly separated. The data analysis demonstrated that 1) parents and children shared similar pre-migration traumas and the event of forced family separation in the U.S.; 2) they reported signs and symptoms of trauma following reunification; 3) almost all individuals met criteria for DSM diagnoses, even after reunification; 4) evaluating clinicians consistently concluded that mental health treatment was indicated for both parents and children; and 5) signs of malingering were absent in all cases.

Neither Safety nor Health: How Title 42 Expulsions Harm Health and Violate Rights

July 28, 2021

Toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Trump administration overrode the objections of public health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and compelled the CDC to issue an order under Title 42 U.S.C. section 265 of the 1944 Public Health and Service Act that closed the border to migrants and asylum seekers. The government used public health as a pretext to summarily expel children and adults seeking refuge at the U.S. border more than 980,000 times, while at the same time allowing other types of travelers to continue to cross the border with no testing or quarantine requirements. Public health experts strenuously objected to the ban, pointing out the lack of epidemiological evidence for only banning this category of entrants to the United States while keeping the borders open to other travelers.Nevertheless, six months into the Biden administration, the U.S. government continues to expel families and adults to countries where they face severe harm and persecution, violating their rights and failing to safeguard public health. The Biden administration also continues to carry out chaotic border expulsions that perpetuate family separation and further traumatize an already vulnerable population.In May 2021, a Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) research team conducted interviews in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico with 28 asylum seekers who had been expelled under the Title 42 order, and with six health care workers providing services to migrants. The team sought to document people's experiences during expulsion, including family separation, the actions of U.S. and Mexican government officials during the expulsion process, and the physical and mental health impacts of expulsion and family separation.People described an impossible situation, where they were unsafe in their own country, unsafe in Mexico, and yet unable to seek safety at the U.S. border. Every day that the Title 42 order continues to expel asylum seekers is another day that the U.S. government is harming people's health and violating their human rights.

Behind Closed Doors: Abuse and Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers in U.S. Immigration Detention

June 23, 2021

The decision to begin a hunger strike in immigration detention is not taken lightly. A detained person's refusal to eat may be the last option available to voice complaint, after all other methods of petition have failed. Detained and imprisoned people worldwide have engaged in hunger strikes to plead for humane conditions of confinement or release from captivity and to bring attention to broader calls for justice.Each day, the United States government unnecessarily locks up thousands of people in civil immigration detention, including children, in over two hundred immigration detention centers around the country.People may be locked up for many months — even years — as they await final adjudication of their cases or deportation. Trapped in a system marked by mistreatment and abuse, medical neglect, and the denial of due process, hundreds of people in immigration detention engage in hunger strikes as a means of protest each year. ICE's failure to provide safe and humane conditions in detention during the COVID-19 pandemic has only raised the stakes for detained people. Although some detained people, on occasion, are able to bring outside attention to their hunger strikes, very little is known of ICE's systemic response to hunger striking detainees.This report provides for the first time an in-depth, nationwide examination of what happens to people who engage in hunger strikes while detained by ICE.

Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the "Enhanced" Interrogation Program

June 9, 2010

Examines evidence of medical professionals monitoring the interrogations of detainees, analyzing the results, and seeking inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations. Explores purposes and implications and recommends a federal investigation.

The Infiltration Prevention Bill Lies and Reality

February 2, 2010

The Infiltration Prevention Law, which will first be deliberated by the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee on February 3, 2010, is one of the most dangerous bills ever presented in the Knesset. If the law is passed, the State of Israel's obligations to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees will be annulled, refugees who never committed a crime could be jailed for up to twenty years, refugees could be deported to their home countries in a manner that could endanger their lives, and the deeds carried out by aid organization employees and volunteers could become criminal. This report will detail the main components of the bill, and will refute many lies that serve as its premise.