Separating Immigrant Children from Parents

This child was not removed from her mother at the border, but her cries demonstrate the stress these children are under even without being separated from their parents. Time Magazine cover.

This isn’t a political blog. And yet there are times when it’s vital to speak out and use whatever platforms we have available. This is such a time.

The US is in the midst of a moral crisis as the Trump Administration continues a border policy that results in the systematic abuse of immigrant children. Many Americans, of both parties and of all faiths and walks of life, are horrified, and we are doing what we can to support these children and their families by sharing our outrage, time, talent, and treasure.

There are some people who insist that these children are just fine. And physically, that may be true. But that comment conveys a lack of understanding about the emotional development of a child and the impact of extreme stress on these young lives. That’s what I hope to address in this post.

I used to work as a mental health counselor for children ages 0-5. Many of my cute little clients were from unstable environments where they were exposed to periods of prolonged stress. My goal as a counselor was to work with parents to reduce stress levels for the child by enhancing stability and predictability in the home, by fostering a sense of safety and trust in caregivers, and by strengthening the parent-child bond. This was the work of creating healthy, happy, socially successful children.

A bit of biology:

Under stress, the human brain is flooded with a hormone called cortisol, which puts the brain on high-alert for a fight, flight, or withdrawal response. In well-adjusted adults, once a stressful event passes, the cortisol levels go down and the brain resumes normal functioning.

Unlike adults, children don’t have the life experience to manage high levels of stress successfully. They require the support of a nurturing caregiver to process stress and regulate emotions (to manage that cortisol). This is often accomplished through cuddles, soft assurances, and tender minding. Over time, this repetitive loving support teaches children how to manage stress on their own.

Why is this important?

Because children’s brains are still developing. Young children who are exposed to prolonged stress can experience a PERMANENT elevation in the baseline cortisol level in their brains. This can cause difficulty with emotional regulation, difficulty calming down, hyperactivity, withdrawal, and difficulty with concentration and learning. These challenges can persist into adulthood and make life much harder to manage successfully. The good news is that prevention is as simple as a loving parent.

(For more on baby-brains, here’s an old post called Why Love Matters).

Many of the immigrant children entering the US come from some of the most dangerous countries in the world. After a frightening journey, they arrive in an unfamiliar land where they don’t speak the language and don’t know where they will end up. They are severely stressed to begin with, and the only thing that they have to hold onto, the only thing that gives them any sense of safety and dependability is mom or dad’s hand. When that is ripped away, trauma is piled on top of trauma.

The US immigration policy of separating children from their parents is damaging to these children and shameful on the part of the US government. It subjects mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, and babies to unnecessary trauma and debilitating stress.

Please be aware, too, that many of these people are seeking asylum, which is LEGAL in the US. Under the current policy, they are considered guilty until proven innocent.

And this crisis is not over by any means:

1) Though children are no longer being removed from their parents at the border (for now), there are thousands of children who have been separated from their parents, and there are no concrete plans in place for reunification.

2) The Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy is incarcerating parents regardless of their family circumstances, and by law, children cannot be jailed for more than 20 days. What happens when the 20 days are up?

3) Keep an eye out for efforts to terminate parental rights and put young children up for adoption. Parental rights can be terminated if a parent doesn’t keep in contact with their child. Deported parents who don’t know where their children are or parents who are unable to maintain a relationship due to incarceration are at high risk of permanently losing their children.

A tough immigration policy does not need to be cruel.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” – Hebrews 13:2

233 thoughts on “Separating Immigrant Children from Parents

  1. Agreed, we are in a moral crisis, and its due to liberalism. You all were so quiet about this issue when Obama was President, but oh man the second Trump is in office you must find something to cry about. Sad and pathetic. This issue is much larger than you false outrage.

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing your outrage. I agree that our immigration policy has been broken for some time. I think that immigration has been effectively used as a wedge issue to divide us, and I wish that our congressmen and congresswomen would finally get together and come up with a comprehensive immigration policy that addresses strong borders, root causes, visiting workers, and asylum needs, and does it all in an organized, humane way. I will never agree, no matter who is president, that child abuse is an acceptible policy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I cant say I disagree with anything you just said. I also think this newly found outrage is only because of who is president, but what is the solution when it comes to separating the parents and kids? The Obama admin got sued for housing kids with their parents in adult facilities. Now, they are separated and there is outrage. No one wins, its a terrible situation, but evil exists, bad scenarios exist and it’s terrible kids are separated from their families. As a father I cant imagine that happening to my child, but then again I wouldn’t illegally enter a country. I just think its a deep subject that will result in displeasing results one way or another. Illegal immigration needs to stop for this to stop.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t have the perfect solution, that’s for sure. But I believe that’s what we sent our representatives to Washington for and they need to work this out, or we’re all going to be arguing about it twenty years from now. Everyone, including the immigrants would be served by a solution even if its not perfect. BTW – I don’t think the left and right are that far apart when we take the time to chat. Have an awesome weekend. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Léa says:

    I find it difficult to believe that much of America realizes what a Pandora’s box has been released. As a therapist and former Child Protection Worker (Family Reunification) I have first hand experience. Fortunately, on a smaller scale.
    As an ex-pat living in Europe since 2007, I am frequently called upon to explain how Americans can allow this to happen…

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s insane over here. I think something is going to break soon. Our political system is in a shambles, our values screwed up, and fear-mongering has been going on for so long that 30% of the country is entrenched in a culture of lies. Our courts have ordered Trump to reunify these families and his administration is dragging its feet. It’s purposeful child abuse and appalling. Thanks for sharing your experience and stopping by to read. I wish I had good news to share.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Léa says:

        Yes it is. I’m so glad I left when I did. However, it is hard not to know what is going on there and I still have friends and family there. Here is a quote from a post I’ve been mulling over for one of my blogs.
        “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually, they will            believe it.”    – Adolf Hitler
        I believe it says a lot. Especially when one looks at who said it. The imprisonment of these children has opened a Pandora’s box which will haunt for generations. I know the system all too well. Please take care of yourself. A friend recently said he feels as if he is on the Titanic. I felt it was an appropriate metaphore.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The Titanic is a great metaphor. In four months the American people will get a chance plug the leak. If we don’t… I don’t know what I’ll do. Canada is looking better and better.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Léa says:

            And this election won’t be tampered with? Canada would have been an easy choice for me as there is still a lot of family there but here were two large issues with it for me. But most of all, I always knew I belonged in Europe. I was right. I wish I could be as optomistic to belive this election won’t be tampered with. I do wish you all the best.

            Liked by 1 person

            • A worry, indeed. I’m glad you ended up where you belong (and it certainly looks that way from your blog). We have children and grandchildren here, so don’t want to go so far away – unless they’ll all come with us!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Léa says:

                While I do understand, I have people there myself. Here I could make a refuge for them. They have somewhere to go to and someone who can help them get established. If that is their choice. What kind of a future awaits them there? Each must decide for themself. All the best.

                Liked by 1 person

  3. Bel says:

    This completely breaks my heart. I don’t even understand those who support the separation and have children of their own. These people have suffered greatly and I just can’t express how horrible and heartless this is…no kid should ever be have to experience this and yet it continues to happen…😕

    Like

    • Hi Bel. Sorry about the late reply – I found 3 of your comments from Friday the 13th in my Spam this morning! Yes, this is outrageous and shameful, and I can’t believe they haven’t fixed it, even with a court order. Well, yes, I can believe it since this administration couldn’t care less. I’m glad that the news hasn’t dropped this issue and moved like they usually do. My heart continues to break for these poor children and their families. Thanks so much for your comment, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Erik says:

    Beautifully, tactfully and truthfully written, Diana. Thank you for using your voice and influence in this way and at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Erik. I’m not sure I changed any minds, but I needed to put it out there. Only one FB person actually disapproved, so on the whole, I think people know how sad and shameful this is. Thanks for weighing in, my friend. ❤

      Like

  5. MG WELLS says:

    It is sad and the oompa loompa did promise to get rid of criminals, not tear apart families. I cannot even look at that creature right now. Thanks for sharing and wishing ALL a blessed day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your compassion for these families. The administrations dedication to continuing the abuse of children is stunning. I’m heartened to see American families standing up against cruelty. I hope we all remember in November. Blessed day to you as well. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This is a timely, and well-written, post, Diana. May we be able to resist this audacity and protect those innocents until the powers that be get their heads out of their arses and remember they are working for the whole country, not just the people who are profiting from this situation (wish I could find that article, but it makes one want to … well, better not go there 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I hear you about not going there, Julie. All this turmoil is exhausting. At least today a lot of Americans are standing up for compassion and the values that made this country truly great. I’m afraid the US is in for a rough time, and I feel for our kids and future generations. They’re going to grow up in country different from the one I grew up in. Thanks for speaking up and have a wonderful peaceful weekend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such an important issue to cover, I commend your clear compassionate approach. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for reading, Lorraine. I am certainly capable of ranting, but I wanted to get the facts across about the long term effects on children. I believe there are compassionate, respectful, and comprehensive solutions if we want them. Have a wonderful weekend full of kindnesses. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Steph McCoy says:

    Thank you for speaking out on this issue Diana. I wish I understood what happened to our humanity and why we seem incapable of putting ourselves in other’s shoes. But more than that it’s the bitter hatred I can’t come to grips with. 💔

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Steph. I’m bewildered as well, and so distressed for these children and their parents. Fear of Other has been a way for politicians to divide us and get votes. These families are suffering for it, and I think we all will feel the consequences before this is over. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts and compassion. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • Steph McCoy says:

        You’re welcome!! I’m fond of saying that it’s so easy to take a stand when we’re on the “Other” side of any given situation. When we are able to imagine ourselves in another’s situation it helps to shift our focus. I can’t imagine how helpless the parents and children are feeling especially when many of them are seeking refuge.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Aquileana says:

    This is such an awful measure… it goes against Human Rights.
    You are right as to why children should not be separated from their parents… under any circumstance. This is just an expression of bigotry and xenophobia. Otherwise, it is hard to understand it.
    Great post dear Diana, thanks for sharing… sending love and best wishes 💛⭐️💛

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for reading, Aquileana. It is really hard to feel so ashamed of my country. I’m afraid there is a rough road ahead. As much as I love the summer, the November elections can’t get here soon enough. Thanks for the love and wishes; we need it. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. […] “Separating Immigrant Children From Parents” she powerfully articulates why the Trump Administration’s cruel policy toward asylum seekers […]

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ~M says:

    Great post D. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  12. kmwrites says:

    It’s heart breaking to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Especially since it’s intended to be cruel. It’s a conscious choice to damage these children. There’s been enough outrage that I believe this is coming to an end. We shall see. Thanks so much for stopping by to read. I hope your day with overflowing with kindness. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. mylilplace says:

    Thank you for speaking out and for being a strong voice against this senseless brutality. Our country’s identity is getting redefined everyday and not in the way I had hoped it would be. Political inclinations and beliefs aside, we have to at least agree one the important fundamentals of humanity survival.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would think so too. We may think we aren’t all in this together, but we are. And children are the embodiment of our future besides being adorable, innocent, and truly worth of our tenderest care. Thanks for reading and being a voice for compassion. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Teri Polen says:

    So very well said – thank you, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ocean Bream says:

    I read this post when you first wrote it Diana. I am so very glad you wrote about this, you put into words to eloquently what thousands of us, GLOBALLY, are feeling about this. I can’t imagine something like this happening to my little brothers, and to see those little hands pressed onto the tinted windows of buses is soul-breaking. Thank you for saying something, NOTHING can excuse what Trump and his administration has done. Nothing. It’s a wonder he doesn’t writhe at night in the agony of his evil. These kids will be scarred for the rest of their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder at the lack of empathy, Lenora. You can picture the agony of your little brothers. I can certainly imagine the terror my grandson would be feeling as well as my daughter. The fact that 30% of Americans think this is okay, is horrifying. It says terrible things about this country when child abuse is considered acceptable. So I had to weigh in and pray it will end soon. Hugs, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Antonia says:

    Sometimes, we all have to speak out. I am so behind and am sorry I am just visiting. I hope you have been doing well, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to share the post even though it was exhausting compared to my usual fare. I hope things will change for the better in November. Summer is a busy time for families, so I totally get it. Enjoy the good weather and the kids. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Antonia says:

        Thank you! It really is. I always have this fantasy that I will have so much more time on my hands. lol! It is a wonderful time though, and I wouldn’t trade it! I hope you enjoy your summer as well!

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Sarah says:

    It’s so horrible what is happening at the moment, Diana but your and so many others’ reaction makes me feel hopeful that there’s going to happen something to change this, and hopefully rather sooner than later. I’m not sure how German laws handle these kind of things – we have to deal with lots of immigrants and refugees – but if something similar would happen I’m sure I would have heard of it. I can’t even imagine the soulripping pain these children and their parents have to go through – it’s barbaric and beyond cruel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yesterday the courts gave the administration deadlines to get these children reunited with their families. The timing (up to 30 days) seems far too long to me, but I suppose it will take time to find the child and parents. The whole thing is an incompetent, brutal mess. I know immigration is a challenge everywhere, Sarah. But I honestly believe there are solutions if everyone is willing to do the hard work. Currently in the US, the drama and division is preferred over solutions. Ugh. Thanks for your kind words and compassionate support. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I always think it’s interesting how all the Americans I come across are equally horrified, as are most of the Brits (with the exception of my mother *sigh*) with the UK’s decision to leave the EU and our current archaic and brutal immigration policy. Let’s hope that all your voices have more impact than ours over here. Sorry, That sounds a bit glum – the trouble is that once these things start it seems they begin speedily, but to repeal and change takes forever. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been feeling quite low lately too, Dawn, as the tragic choices mount. And I hear you about the timing. What’s happened in 18 months is going to take generations to repair, if ever. Right now, the children are my focus. Later it will be women’s rights and the welfare of the poor and elderly. Unless you’re rich in the US, you are under assault. Hugs to you too. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Jools says:

    Thank you for writing this, Diana, and for politicising your blog for a moment, on behalf of those distressed children and their doubtless equally distressed parents – and, perhaps the distressed citizens of the USA who are horrified at what is being done to their country and its reputation. You express yourself with such clarity and no hyperbole. You speak for so many.

    Liked by 1 person

    • After I wrote it, I edited out some of the ranting, Julie. I wanted it to be factual and informative. I am very concerned about the direction the country is taking, and I do hope in the end that we choose compassion and community over fear and division. Thanks for stopping by to share your support of these children and their families. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks for your insightful post. People continue to insist that these kids are “fine.” In reality, they’re anything but fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think anyone who says that these kids are fine either doesn’t know any kids or hasn’t an empathetic bone in their bodies. The cruelty is stunning and the justification is heartless. I’m very worried for the US. If Americans don’t make a change in November, we are in for a very rough road and may not recover. 😦 Thanks for stopping by to read and I hope your day is filled with kindness. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. “Why is it important?” Diana, I’m living proof of what you described in that paragraph. I guess the 30% are descendants of those who knew about and blew-off my sister’s death and my own situation. Or like them anyway. Enough about me.
    Fine? Fine? Really? Yes, I’ve heard the imbeciles say that too. How in any universe could anybody think those children are fine? People have an amazing, limitless, disgusting, capacity to ignore and blind themselves to horrors that are right under their noses.
    Thank you for using your blog for this purpose today.
    Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Teagan, I’m so sorry that this rings familiar. People are amazingly resilient and despite a terrible start, they can still grow up to be powerful and caring people… like you. It’s hard to bear the news of needless suffering adults inflict upon children. The Trump government has chosen to abuse children and that choice reflects a moral depravity that leaves me reeling. Thank you for visiting, my friend. Keep your chin up, heart strong, and know that you are loved. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Thank you for sharing this post, and for using your voice as a writer to clearly articulate an emotionally fraught issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had hoped this post wouldn’t be necessary, but nothing had changed even with all the outrage. Children don’t deserve this cruel treatment, and the knowledge that inflicting trauma is a choice makes it truly barbaric. I honestly believe there are ways to manage immigration responsibly and humanely, but there is no political advantage to doing so. Thanks for taking the time to read. May your day be filled with kindness, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Carol says:

    A sad state of affairs when an administration thinks it can stop immigrants trying to come into the U.S. by causing fear of having your child/children removed…It is barbaric, unfeeling and inhuman…In this so-called civilised society, this shouldn’t be happening… Those poor children…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Carol. I especially don’t understand how anyone with children and grandchildren can support these policies. The lack of empathy is truly stunning. I hope this policy is the beginning of the end for this administration, though I worry that the damage to this country is going to take generations to repair. Thanks for sharing your outrage and compassion. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol says:

        I think anyone anywhere should be outraged..I have family in America and they never ever comment on any of my reactions to what is going on and it surprises and saddens me as I am now questioning where and with whom their loyalties lie xx

        Liked by 1 person

  24. ljshouse2015 says:

    I just finished a book on how emotional experiences, especially at a young age, support the growth of intelligence and moral development in children. At a time when we are overwhelmed with people whose level of intelligence (of all kinds) and moral development of all kinds seems to be at an all-time low, causing so much of the violence rampant in society now, I can’t for the life of me see why anyone would want to pursue policies which can only make this worse. If it is so vital to stop immigration into this country, there must be a better way to go about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your entire comment, and witnessed that personally when I was working with young children. Poor emotional regulation and hyper-reactivity make learning difficult and can increase poor decision-making and aggression because the system is so jacked up, all the time. To do this to a child on purpose is horrifying. And there is a better way, of course, but fear is a powerful political force. Until our politicians start losing their jobs, I’m afraid they won’t make a change. Thanks so much for the comment and keep on speaking up for sanity. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I agree, there are times when it’s necessary to speak out. What is happening to the children that are separated from their parents, isn’t only a disgrace to any country but it’s so damaging to the children themselves, that it’s impossible to understand how anyone can condone what is presently happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And yet about 30% of Americans find this tolerable, Otto. It’s like a knife through the heart and it’s impossible for me to understand. An ugly underbelly of American culture is surfacing from a political strategy that preys on fear, and though right now immigrant families are paying the price, in the long run, all Americians are going to face a reckoning. I continue to hope that by speaking up for kindness and compassion we can turn the tide. Thank you for your comment and kindness. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

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