One of the children separated from his parents at the US-Mexico border was returned months later with lice, looking as if he hadn’t been bathed in weeks, and with irrevocable changes to his personality, his mother said, according to documents filed in a lawsuit against the Trump administration.
That detail comes from PBS’s Lisa Desjardins reporting for PBS Newshour. The lawsuit, from 17 states and the District of Columbia, calls for an end to Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and demands the administration reunite all families that were separated at the border.
According to Desjardins, one mother, Olivia Caceres, alleged that she was separated from her son in November at a legal point entry, according to PBS, and wasn’t with him for 12 weeks. When he was returned to her custody, Caceres’s son was infested with lice and appeared as though he had not been bathed for the entirety of their separation, PBS reported.
“[My son] is not the same since we were reunited. I thought that, because he is so young he would not be traumatized by this experience,” Caceres told Desjardins. “But he does not separate from me. He cries when he does not see me. That behavior is not normal.”
Desjardins says HHS has denied these claims and said it’s hard to prove that they are responsible for this ill-treatment.
The stories about what happens to children who are reunited with their families are playing out as still hundreds more kids remain separated from their parents. On June 26, HHS was given a deadline to reunite children under the age of 5 to their families within 14 days and all children within 30 days.
The 14-day deadline will pass on July 9. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said he will work to meet that deadline, but he admitted that they don’t know which of the nearly 3,000 migrant children in HHS’s custody have been separated from their parents.