We as mental health clinicians are mandated reporters. That means we must report when someone or something is unsafe for a client, and most importantly, a child.
So I have a duty to warn. My duty in this case is to warn against the atrocities that are occurring in this country right now. There is a severe violation against children’s (and more specifically, immigrants’) rights.
We have one of two choices. Sit and watch idly on the sidelines, or do something, including speak up. These are children who don’t have voices, who didn’t ask to be in this position. They are just children of parents who want(ed) something better for their own lives, including their children’s lives. Yet they are punished for doing exactly what we champion in this country: to raise yourself up by your bootstraps and improve your current conditions.
What does this do for a child, for a people, and even for a country? To say the least, it’s traumatic, traumatizing. Degrading; devastating; troubling; chaotic; you pick a negative adjective and that’s most likely it. But most of all, it’s isolating and further removes us from compassion.
You know, that thing that we somehow have lost touch with. That emotion, those actions, that show we have heart. That we care. That we truly want what’s best for all. Of course, unless you happen to fall in the brown-skin category. Or a lower socio-economic category. Then all bets are off.
And all of this in the name of safety? Let me explain how this whole thing works.
When you separate people from their families, they don’t feel good about who carried out that act, the person who did the separating. And when they don’t feel good, they develop negative feelings. And when they have nowhere or no way to express those feelings, they don’t disappear. They remain. They fester. They increase. They blow up until they’re expressed and given a voice. Given credence. This is how emotions work. They are called “e-motions” because they are “energy in motion.” All energy needs to and has to go somewhere.
Guess what happens when they don’t get expressed or heard? They either get silenced and go underground (note, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means they are silent for the time being); or they make themselves heard in whatever way possible – they scream, they shout, they throw, they tantrum, they hit, they want you to HEAR THEM!
These are the basics of the psychology of separating children from their parents in such an extreme fashion. I won’t get into the politics of this situation specifically, as it is a) implied; and b) a matter of morality more so than anything else.
I’ve heard all sorts of arguments for this action being looked at as ok. As a natural and direct consequence of breaking the law. But let’s dissect this a little further.
True, when one enters the US not through the appropriate means or channels, there should be a way to document them and then figure out what next steps are. But never should this entail separating children from their parents. This is eerily (and my guess, purposely) reminiscent of what happened in Nazi Germany. Children (and women) were separated from their fathers, the men. A classic case of divide, conquer and ultimately, weaken. Add chaos and fear to that. It throws everyone and everything into a topsy turvy. All the while, there is something bigger at play.
Or let’s even look at the history of this country. Slavery. Children were separated, like chattel, from their parents. Sold on the auction block. It was looked at as ok back then, because, well, that was the law of that day. Does that make it right? Not at all. It only tears apart the family unit, results in disarray, anger, and utter confusion. It leads to lack of identity. Loss of identity. How do you identify yourself and know who you truly are with no family history, or knowledge of such?
In many ways, it breeds what we want to avoid in the first place. I hear talk about minorities or immigrants coming from broken homes, not being decent people. However, one must understand that there is a system in place that has been specifically designed to bring about this dynamic to begin with.
That to me is the ultimate in blaming the victim. “Why did you wear your skirt that night?” “Why did you get drunk around all those men?” “What did you do to deserve getting beat as a child?” We’ve heard these questions before. When there is a cognitive dissonance about what is happening right under our eyes, our noses, we attempt to understand from the point of view of the victim by rationalizing, they must have done something to deserve that treatment. And we hear that in the “well, they tried to cross the border so they definitely deserve this treatment.” Afterwards, that viewpoint only becomes stronger and gains more strength and steam with each moment, each story that passes.
Because that feeling becomes stronger does not mean it is the “right” thing. I urge people to step outside of themselves and their own experiences, and step into another person’s shoes. What would it be like for you or your children to be in that position? How would it feel to have your children ripped away from you, begging, crying, screaming because they’ve just been torn from the person who gave birth to them, the person or people who love them most in this world? My guess is it probably wouldn’t feel good.
Before you answer with a “well, I wouldn’t have…,” have you ever lived in a third world country (note, I didn’t say ‘visit’)? Have you ever lived in poverty, day in and day out, surrounded by famine, or crime, fearing for your life on a daily basis? Have you ever thought to yourself, it’s either I leave or die here? Let that marinate…
My last point about this entire ordeal is that I have read that they are giving these children the option of mental health counseling. Awesome. Except what they are saying is being used against them and their family members. There are so many things concerning and troubling about this scenario.
First and foremost, a child should not be seen in therapy without consent of their parents. Yet if they are not near their parents, who then is giving permission for these children to be seen by a professional? And secondly, there is something called confidentiality in therapy. This essentially means that unless the child is talking about hurting or harming themselves or anyone else, or any instances of child abuse, then anything they discuss stays between them and the provider. Ultimately, however, there are various laws between states that dictate all of these rules and regulations. So all the while you are saying they are not citizens, they are being treated as such when convenient. The laws in other countries do not nor should not apply here. I get it, it’s confusing. Imagine what it would be like to be a child and understand all of this with no one there to explain it, or better yet, to simply be there to comfort you in your time of ultimate distress.
That is a sad state of affairs when we have succumb to such a numb and heartless way of looking at the world. We have separated our thoughts, feelings and experiences from those of others based on borders. Yet the only true border any of us have lies in the entire world, universe. We have self-imposed these borders on our true and only nature, which is freedom, love, and shining our lights as bright as possible for all to benefit. My one true hope and dream is that one day the darkness will lift and make way for more light.