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

PHOTO: Colorful decorations cover the walls of the rooms of immigrants at the U.S. governments holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, July 9, 2019.PlayEric Gay/AP
WATCH Doctor discusses toll ICE raids have on families at the border

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.

Interested in Immigration?

Add Immigration as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Immigration news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Add Interest

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

PHOTO: Immigrants say the Pledge of Allegiance in a writing class at the U.S. governments holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, July 9, 2019. Eric Gay/AP
Immigrants say the Pledge of Allegiance in a writing class at the U.S. government's holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, July 9, 2019.

“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.

PHOTO: Decorations cover the walls of rooms of immigrants at the U.S. governments holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, July 9, 2019. Eric Gay/AP
Decorations cover the walls of rooms of immigrants at the U.S. government's holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, July 9, 2019.

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.”