Migrant children in detention facilities could face long-term health struggles: Pediatrician

Saul Schwarz/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Migrant children living in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities will likely face long-term physical and mental health challenges, a top pediatrician told ABC News.

Sally Goza, the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said detained children face unique stress levels.

“That kind of stress makes children be on high alert, red alert, where their brain can’t do the things that are really the work of childhood, which is learning and playing,” Goza said on ABC News’ “The Debrief.”

These children could face prolonged “toxic stress,” which can cause life-long depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, developmental issues and behavioral problems, Goza said.

Goza, like delegations of Congressional lawmakers and groups of lawyers and doctors, recently visited children at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas and the Donna Temporary Holding Facility in Donna, Texas.

The CBP facilities smelled like “a mixture of sweat, urine and feces” and were mostly silent, besides the sound of rustling mylar blankets.

“The children’s eyes were just bloodshot," Goza said. "They obviously were not getting much rest. And they were bug-eyed. That fear of what’s going to happen next, what’s happening to me?”

Goza does not advocate for children being held in border detention centers, but said they “need to be able to be taken care of by a pediatrician or a pediatric-trained provider.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.