ITHACA, N.Y. – On Thursday, half a dozen women gathered outside Tom Reed’s office in Ithaca to present a letter to the congressman opposing the separation of migrant families at U.S. borders.
The letter, written by members of Lawyer Moms of America, was addressed to all members of Congress and drafted a list of four demands regarding the recent controversy surrounding the separation of families seeking asylum in the U.S.
The presentation of the letter at Reed’s office was part of a nationwide event put together by Lawyer Moms of America, a non-partisan group of lawyers, mothers and allies with nearly 15,000 members nationwide.
Kathleen Bergin, a local lawyer, activist and member of Lawyer Moms of America, helped organize the local day of action to present the demands at Reed’s office.
“We came together when families began getting separated at the border, and we are obviously hoping that that situation is resolved as speedily and humanely as possible,” Bergin said. “We put together a letter with a list of demands, basically prioritizing immediate re-unification of children with their families.”
While Reed was not present for the meeting, Bergin laid out their demands to Taryn Windheim, Reed’s Finger Lakes regional director. These included immediate efforts to re-unite the nearly 2,400 children who have been separated from their parents since early May, following an immigration strategy policy enacted by President Donald Trump. But last week, Trump signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border.
“The president ordered to reverse separations in his executive order, but he can reverse that again,” Bergin said. “What we really need is Congress to exercise checks and balances and put a legislative end to family separation. We would hope that politicians would respect the sanctity of the families and the well-being of the children.”
Bergin was accompanied by fellow lawyers, nurse practitioners, psychologists and mothers, who all agreed that legislative action was a necessary next step.
Sarah Markowitz, a local clinical psychologist, also brought up the implications separation may have on children during this process.
“We’re talking about lifelong problems such as lower school achievement, depression and anxiety,” said Markowitz, accompanied by her two nearly 5-year-old sons. “A lot of the families seeking asylum have already been through trauma just in the process of getting here – we’re talking about multiple, continued traumas, which is the most devastating thing that could happen, especially for children, on their long term physical and mental well-being.”
Megan Turnbull, a family nurse practitioner at Kendal at Ithaca, also added that the separation may have an effect on a child’s fight or flight response system.
“Their physical responses to anything that makes them nervous may change,” Turnbull said. “They won’t have sweaty palms, they won’t have higher heart rate, their brain activity may decrease – these are irreversible damages.”
The full letter and entire list of demands from Lawyer Moms of America can be found here.
An earlier version of this story reported Megan Turnbull’s name as Megan Trumbell. It has since been corrected.