“In a country that emphasizes the importance of family unity in the socialization and upbringing of its children, an immigration system that promotes family separation is a broken system.” (Kremer, et al, 2009)
“The President asked Homeland Security Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a rigorous and inclusive review to inform recommendations on reforming our broken immigration system through executive action.” (Homeland Security, 2014)
(I wrote this blog before President Obama announced the new amnesty program for the immigrants. It looks like only 4.4 million of them will benefit from the new amnesty, and that includes children which is good news.)
Immigration is a thorny issue in America and especially in the Southwest near the United States and Mexico borders. I never thought much about the immigrants and the living conditions they would endure. Today, I have been thinking biosocial, cognitive, and psychology impacts on those children.
When I was a child, I would see migrant workers passing through my Indiana hometown over the summers. They would find work on the numerous farms. Then, I would not pay much attention to them. Today, I wonder how many children fall through cracks from this kind of migratory lifestyle.
We have different kinds of immigrant families. There are families who have had been in the United States for years and have children. They live in constant fear that they would be caught and deported. They fear both work and home raids. Most of all, they fear separation from children as a result of raids. This has the most serious consequence on the children.
Kremer et al (2009) outlined the long-term biosocial and psychosocial harm to those children whose parents are deported:
1. The trauma experienced in the immediate aftermath of the enforcement deportation action;
2. The separation of the family due to the detention and ultimate removal of a parent;
3. Devastating and long-lasting financial and emotional harm on the children left behind;
4. Families left without their primary breadwinner, many consisting of stay-at-home mothers who themselves are undocumented and cannot work;
5. Those parents whose spouses have been deported have encountered significant difficulties providing even the basic necessities to their children;
6. Children who have been in school and doing well would become withdrawn and have setbacks in their academic progress; and
7. There would be significant increases in children’s anxiety, depression, feelings of abandonment, eating and sleeping disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and behavioral changes among children who have experienced the loss of a loved one or who witnessed the raids in action.
There’s a sizable Hispanic population in our small beach town. Their children go to our schools. The schools recognize that the children are under stress because of their parents’ poverty and medical or dental needs. In a school & church volunteer partnership, our community provides free medical and dental care at a local preschool for all of the Hispanic families living in our community. Our church provides after-school and evening tutoring not only for students but also English classes for the parents so that the families stay together. Our church also has a breakfast, homework, & mentoring club at the middle school.
I don’t know if all that compensates for the stress those children endure in their lives that should not be happening.
I am thinking of children who are suffering from the devastating spread of Ebola in Liberia and the surrounding countries. They are experiencing losses of their parents and extended family members. First, they try to take care of people who have Ebola and die from them. Then they experience people in protective clothing entering their villages and taking them away to unknown places.
There are 2.5 million children under the age of 5 living in areas affected by Ebola. (Save the Children, 2014) They are more able to survive the outbreak of Ebola. But they lose their parents to Ebola and the lives that they are familiar with.
Save the Children have a Ebola Relief Fund where we can donate. Although celebrities have donated a total of 354 million dollars, Bono, the singer, wrote in a blog:
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- and the world's inept initial response to it --shows how fragile we are on all fronts. Because the epidemic isn't just a failure of health systems in poor countries, or of leadership and coordination by wealthy ones, it's also a failure of our value system. If governments the world over had kept their promises to fight extreme poverty and diseases, the three countries most affected would have had stronger national immune systems.
In this region, they are suffering from more than just Ebola. They also suffer from war, poverty, natural disaster, hunger, chaos, disease, and violence. Those stressors impede the normal biosocial and psychosocial developments in ways that would be impossible to gauge.
Bono. (November, 2014) Ebola is what happens when promises are broken. The Huffington Post. November 20, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/celebrities-ebola-campaign_n_5990634.html
Fixing our broken immigration system through executive action: key facts. (2014) Homeland Security. Retrieved from: http://www.dhs.gov/immigration-action.
Kremer, J. D., Moccio, K. A., and Hammell, J. W. (2009). Severing a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s Immigration Enforcement Policy. A Report to the The Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.dorsey.com/files/upload/DorseyProBono_SeveringLifeline_ReportOnly_web.pdf
Save the Children’s Relief Fund. (November 2014) Retrieved from: http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.B143/Official_USA_Site.htm