Unaccompanied migrant kids suffer deep trauma. They need our help.

June 15, 2023


There is nothing more heart-wrenching than young children’s wailing calls for their parents, sounds filled with fear and anguish so deep that only the least empathetic among us can ignore them. To see children’s withdrawal from others after being forcibly separated from a parent or main caregiver, clutching, sometimes, the smallest of mementos of their previous lives — a picture of a parent, a toy from a loving grandparent, a scrap of paper with a telephone number that is a lifeline to their families — is to see psychological damage in progress.

Growing numbers of unaccompanied migrant children are embarking on treacherous journeys in the hope of protection in the United States. And more end up in Harris County than in any other county in the nation.

They may have faced violence and threats to their lives in their home country. These children can also have traumatic experiences during the dangerous journey to the United States, such as sexual abuse and exploitation, and after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border, where they can face separation from a parent or main caregiver. Children are then often forced to continue their journeys to safety alone, without the support, comfort and reassurance of their parents by their side.


Please access the full op-ed from the Houston Chronicle.

Dr. Luis H. Zayas is the author of “Through Iceboxes and Kennels: How Immigration Detention Harms Children and Families” (2023) and a member of the Kids in Need of Defense Leadership Council. He is a professor of social work at the University of Texas.