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Merkley Highlights Mental Health Issues Affecting Migrant Children In Detention Facilities

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Senator Jeff Merkely / Facebook Page
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U.S. Senator Jeff Merkely talking with Faviola, a migrant, at a detention facility in Texas last week.

Recent reports of squalid conditions at immigrant detention facilities have brought to light issues of overcrowding, lack of hygiene and poor nutrition. But U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley says these conditions can also harm the mental health of migrants, especially children.

When Jeff Merkely recently brought a dozen senators with him to Texas they found a lack of basic necessities, overcrowding, and how these conditions have impacted the mental health of migrants. Merkely says despite the court order last year stopping the separation of children from their families, the practice continues, albeit at a lower level. Merkley says it’s traumatizing detained children.

"You have a child in a difficult situation that’s been ripped away from a parent. And boy, if only we could get them reunited with the parent everything would be fine," he says, "No, that stress can dramatically impact the children for a very long time to come."

Merkley says the directors of these facilities told him there’s a lack of mental health counselors. One facility claimed they needed at least 90 more counselors.

Merkely says that many Oregonians have contacted him, asking if they can host migrant children in their homes instead of the children being locked up in detention centers. He says this would be legal, but the Trump Administration has been denying these petitions on the grounds that it would be too complicated to screen families. The Democrat believes that this is just a cover for the real reason.

"This is another strategy of the administration to inflict additional pain and suffering is by making it very hard to have sponsors," he says, "They’ve kept more children locked up deepening the damage."

Merkley expects more representatives to visit these facilities in August and hopes these visits will convince more to support his legislation to improve conditions.