Although I am a psychologist and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, I can find no words to describe my outrage about forcibly separating children from their parents at the border. The seizing of children from their mother or father, the warehousing of children including babies, is beyond a simple immoral act, rather it is inhuman and cruel. As an American, I am ashamed.
I do not want to enter into the debate whether refugees should be labeled illegal or whether the deportation practices are prejudicial and heartless. Rather, I am appalled that as a people we can tolerate watching the news. There is a blindness about our callous approach. We talk law and punishment as though our actions were justified. We dare to name the institutions where we warehouse babies as Tender Age Shelters as though they are a safe and happy place. We don’t ask ourselves why young children, who speak another language and don’t understand why their parents are not with them, wouldn’t find solace in our care. We pretend that they are unharmed. The parents are labeled as illegals and criminals, and yet we are the ones who are psychologically damaging the next generation. As a psychologist who has worked with children, I am worried about the consequences of these actions.
These children when they can be returned (please God) to their parents will not be healthy. These children have been traumatized, and the very youngest ones do not even have language to make sense of anything. A child is meant to be connected with a parent for safety, for attachment, for growing into a separate, healthy self. These children are being damaged. They were already refugees, fleeing to America for safety and well-being. Now, because of high levels of fear, they are likely to distrust, to be unable to manage their emotions, to continue to react, to become drug addicted, and possibly to also abuse. Their health is at risk.
The Statue of Liberty says: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… Unfortunately, words that once gave me pride are now hollow. It is a sad and harmful legacy that we are giving to the world.
As people of faith, we must not doubt that our actions sadden God. We must ask for mercy, for surely the harming of innocent children suggests that our hearts are hardened. It is time to reassess our values and national pride. And we must pray fervently that our children will not follow in our footsteps; rather that they will grow into being good national neighbors and redeem our country.
Karen Rossman, OP