Immigrant Children: An Update

We know: We’ve already written about the immigrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border. But in the avalanche of news we live with on a daily basis, these children aren’t making headlines any more, and it’s altogether too easy to forget about them. So here’s an update, and a short summary: For most of them, the situation isn’t getting better.

The Trump administration is no longer separating children from their parents when they cross the border into the U.S. illegally.

Instead, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is putting the whole family—including very young children—into detention together.

At the moment, a legal settlement bans officials from detaining children longer than 20 days, but the administration is trying to overturn that ruling and keep them in shelters until their asylum claims are settled one way or the other. That is, indefinitely.

This would mean building more and bigger mass shelters—and endangering more and more children, who suffer serious and long-lasting harm from being institutionalized, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The administration also wants to halt inspections at these shelters (several of which already face abuse charges) and make it significantly harder for children to be released to the custody of family members and friends.

In the meantime

Over 500 children who were taken from their parents earlier in the year still have no idea of when—or whether—they’ll see them again. Some parents have been declared “ineligible” for reunification, and 300 plus have been deported. No one knows where they are.

Non-profit organizations have shouldered the job of locating and matching them with their offspring, but the work is grueling and time consuming, especially since the administration insists that reunification take place in the family’s home country, where there is often no phone service and people speak neither English nor Spanish.

Then parents must decide whether to bring their children home and relinquish their hopes of asylum, or to let their children stay in the U.S. and pursue asylum alone.

This is a no-win situation. No matter what happens next, children are experiencing extreme fear and toxic stress, and their future is likely to include developmental delays, PTSD, and other mental and physical health challenges.

Living with trauma

You may be seeing some of these children–or others who’ve lived through traumatic events–in your classroom. If so, be aware that they and their families will require extra sensitive attention and security.

If you’ve already encountered children with these experiences, how have you managed? Have you been able to help them? If so, what have you done and what works?

 



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