Handa Center Faculty Fellow Beth Van Schaack, a core collaborator in Stanford's Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health (HRTMH) Program, recently published a slate of articles on the US policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border. She argues the policy is a form of torture for both parents and their children. Because torture is a specific intent crime, it must be demonstrated that it was performed for particular purposes, such as to intimidate or coerce the victim or a third person.
"There is little question that the policy caused severe harm to children and their parents, but proving this specific intent on the part of the Trump administration was more elusive…." she writes. "[We] now have definitive proof that the purpose was to punish current asylum-seekers in order to intimidate or coerce others from exercising their human right to seek asylum here." She also argues that such separations approach practices of enforced or involuntary disappearances and the compounded trauma that is accompanied by such experiences.