MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Father's Day to protest the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy which sends parents who cross the U.S. border illegally to federal jails while placing their children in shelters.
Braving the heat, many gathered in front of the Republican Party office on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis to call for an end to the practice, which they view as an irreparable and traumatic violation of human rights.
"We are really taking an enormous risk with many of these children that they will suffer PTSD for a long period of time," said Dr. Megan Gunnar, a developmental psychologist at the University of Minnesota. "This is not a wise thing for our country to be doing to young children."
She was one of nearly 4,600 mental health professionals who petitioned for an end to the practice of splitting up families at the border, and worries those separated children will suffer costly ramifications and stunted development.
As of Thursday, at least 11,000 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.
President Donald Trump blamed the situation on the Democratic Party this weekend, with advisors like Kellyanne Conway elaborating later that they simply want to stop migrants from using their children to gain access to the country.
“There are three circumstances by which DHS evaluates a child at the border," Conway said. "One is-- does this child actually have a custodial familial relationship with the adult? And number two -- is the child in any danger? And plenty have been over time. Some adults are using children to gain access to the border."
Protestors who marched with Minnesota Immigration Rights Action Committee also include other mental health specialists, like David Mair, a psychiatrist who echoed Gunnar’s sentiments.
“[Separation] would predispose for a whole variety of problems in adult life. Such as depression, anxiety, personality problems, PTSD,” Mair said.
Meanwhile, in a statement from her office, First Lady Melania Trump’s spokesperson said she hates to see children separated from their families at the border, and urged for both Democrats and Republicans to come to an agreement on immigration reform.
“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” a spokesperson said on the First Lady’s behalf.