BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CN) – A federal judge in Connecticut ordered treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by two immigrant children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S. border, in addition to their immediate reunification.
In a ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Bolden found not only was the separation of the children from their parents unconstitutional, but he ordered the parties to come up with a “plan for addressing the children’s PTSD not only up to and including family reunification, but also after it.”
The two children, a 9-year-old boy from Honduras identified in court records as J.S.R., and a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador identified as V.F.B., were scheduled to be reunified with their respective father and mother Monday.
New Haven child psychiatrist Andrés Martin, who had examined the children, told the court on July 11 that the separation caused children to suffer PTSD with serious potential short and long-term effects.
Martin testified that J.S.R. fled with his father from Honduras after his grandparents were murdered and the body of a family friend was left in his backyard.
“While in Honduras, J.S.R. had witnessed gang violence, including witnessing his grandmother dead, with her body tossed in a river and her neck split open. He also saw the dead body of someone he knew from his neighborhood dropped in his backyard,” according to Bolden’s ruling.
When the boy and his father arrived in Hidalgo, Texas, they were confined in freezing conditions.
“J.S.R. described being held in an ‘ice box’ or ‘freezer’—and were eventually transferred to an immigration detention center,” the ruling states.
Martin testified that “J.S.R. does not sleep well, does not trust adults, and is depressed and tearful. He is terrified of the prospect of returning to Honduras, because of his fear of gang violence there and the harm that could befall his father or his family.”
V.F.B. fled El Salvador with her mother after her stepfather was killed by a gang.
Martin testified that “like J.S.R.’s journey, V.F.B.’s trip itself was not especially traumatic; the separation from her mother, however, did result in considerable trauma.”
When Martin tried to interview V.F.B., he struggled because she was uncomfortable.
“She would hide her face behind her arm or shy away from the interviewer. During the interview, she cried often,” court records show.
“Martin expressed grave concern for the children if they are not reunited with their families, and he testified that there likely will be both short-term and long-term physical and mental health consequences for the children,” Bolden wrote in his ruling.
Bolden is holding a hearing on Wednesday to come up with a plan for the children’s PTSD.
“J.S.R. and V.F.B. are entitled to relief to address the consequences of the government’s unconstitutional separation of them from their parents, a harm, based on Dr. Martin’s unrebutted testimony, likely to continue even after family reunification,” Bolden wrote.
The parents are expected to be reunited with their children Monday after being paroled from a facility in Texas and are expected to be present for the hearing Wednesday.
“Today’s announcement promises to bring these families’ nightmare to an end,” Connecticut Legal Services Deputy Director Joshua Perry said.
The details of the reunification are still being resolved.