South Bay psychology expert warns of possible issues for kids held at border camps

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- A psychology professor at Santa Clara University said conditions for the nearly 2,000 children being held at a facility on the U.S.-Mexico border are remarkably frightening.

Professor Thomas Plante told ABC7 current conditions can lead to both physical and mental health risks for the children in the future. Especially since they were abruptly separated from their families.

"It's clear child abuse," he said. "There's no other way to describe it."

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Plante referenced the countless images of kids behind fenced cages at a border facility, and the heartbreaking audio that illustrated the distress these children are facing.

"You are basically traumatizing a whole cohort of children and families that won't go away when the border issues are resolved," Plante said.

Like the American Psychological Association, Plate anticipates the separation will leave a lasting traumatic impact on these kids' lives.

APA wrote an open letter to the Trump administration against the family separation policy.

On Tuesday, Plante said at least a third will experience post-traumatic stress disorder, half will battle anxiety disorders, but all will suffer in some way.

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Plante added, "Some people are more resilient than others, but we can expect an awful lot of trauma that will be with these families and children for years to come."

Laura Vazquez, 23, became a U.S. citizen at 12-years-old. She explained how the immigration process kept her from her father.

"I didn't think it was that big of an impact at first," she said. "My dad wasn't really around when I was born because he was already living here in the U.S."

Vazquez explained the early separation from her father had greatly impacted relationships throughout her life.

"I got a hint of it when I was a kid, but I can't even imagine what these kids are like going through," she said.

It's that lasting impact Plante fears could be the case for the thousands of immigrant children who were forced to separate from their families.

"I've seen a lot of abused kids over the years, terribly abused kids over the years," Plante said. "And this is just mind-spinning."

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