"It's state-sponsored trauma inflicted on a massive scale, on the thousands, on the most vulnerable of asylum seeker populations," Lopez said on Tuesday.
She also said children from indigenous tribes, such as the Mayan from Guatemala, need more resources in these detention centers to understand what is happening to their families.
Lopez said she worked directly with unaccompanied minors during the surges of 2015 and 2016. Children could not be located by their families for months, she said.
"The separation from a primary caregiver at certain ages when the child does not understand enough to process can have consequences that will follow that child for a very long time, and may affect their relationships and sense of trust in humanity going forward," Lopez said.
There is hope the mounting pressure and outrage against the administration’s zero-tolerance policy will force the executive office to reconsider its inhuman treatment of children and their parents, Lopez said.
During the same speech, the president said he will ask congress for authority to freeze foreign aid from countries that allegedly "send" illegal immigrants to the United States. The US president also wants legal authority "to detain and remove illegal immigrant families all together and bring them back to their country."
Most of the migrants coming into the United States from Mexico are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Most of them are fleeing gang violence or persecution, according to Homeland Security data.
In April, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled a "zero tolerance" immigration policy that entails separating families. Adults crossing the border illegally are detained and children sent to facilities run by US Health and Human Services. Some 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents during a six-week period through the end of May.