Immigrants come to the United States for a better life, a better opportunity, and a brighter future for their children. In the present day, this remains the same and has been increased due to the living conditions in some countries becoming increasingly worse. America for centuries has been known as the “Land of the Free” and also the “Land of Opportunity. With a reputation such as that, one can understand why people will opt to immigrate to America as opposed to other countries. However, what is taking place at the US and Mexico border, is quite the opposite. Many immigrant parents at the border grew up in a violent environment and due to the violence becoming more severe, are fleeing with their loved ones to somewhere safe. According to the reports “ Injustice for All: “The rise of the Immigration policing regime” that took place in 2009-2010 stated that “ The U.S government has put into place a brutal system of immigration control and policing that criminalizes immigration status, normalizes the forcible separation of families, destabilizes communities and workplaces, and fuels widespread civil rights violations”. People are showing up for opportunity and are being greeted by what would consider a nightmare. Parents in some cases travel miles over several days to get to the border, oftentimes carrying their children with them. They hope to be able to seek protection in the United States for themselves and their children. However, it has been reported by several major news outlets such as CNN and Fox News, that children are being forced to separate from their families by the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It has been reported by The Department of Homeland Security says “more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents since April. They are being held in detention centers across the country.” They are being detained in what is described as unsafe and unsanitary conditions and some children have been separated from their families with neither of them knowing where each other are and when they’ll ever see each other again. When children are separated from families, the emotional support from their parents is missing. Therefore those children are more likely to grow up to have psychological issues. In an article by Seth Robbins, titled ‘Immigrant children face depression in centers’, it can be deduced that children separated at the border are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression. As it was reported by “the Washington Post” “A Guatemalan woman who alleges her daughter died of a viral lung infection after “neglect and mistreatment” those children are being neglected and does not get enough care. This paper will discuss in detail, how these psychological and physical issues have affected the lives of these immigrant children.
As defined by the dictionary and the institute of psychology, post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) is “a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and the outside world.” Children often develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual abuse, physical violence. When children are being forced to separate from their families without being able to communicate with their families that is considered a traumatic event. Those children have already been through a traumatic Journey before arriving at the U.S border. Most of those families are seeking protection and are fleeing danger from their homeland. Children rely on their parents, especially in their early life, therefore without their parents around or any family member they will feel rejected and alone. The environment that children grow up in shapes their brain especially being at a young age where their brain is still developing and whatever traumatic events that happen to them can definitely impact them for the rest of their life. Interacting with peers, some children will try to hide their inner feelings and others will express their feelings by acting out. According to American Psychological Association (APA), a study “ Psychological Trauma” that took place in 2017 “ Rojas-Flores and colleagues discovered that PTSD symptoms were significantly higher for children of detained or deported parents compared with those whose parents were legal permanent residents or were undocumented but had no contact with immigration enforcement. The children's teachers also reported increased behavioral problems among students with detained or deported parents”. That shows the negative effect of when children are forced to separate from their parents…….
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is “ a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” depression can lead to different types of emotional and physical problems such as thoughts of suicidal. Most recent studies show that immigrant children living in a detention center and that are hundreds of miles away from their parents are more likely to be depressed. According to the article “Potential Child Health Consequences of the Federal Policy Separating Immigrant Children From Their Parents” indicates that “The immediate consequences of separating children from their parents may be easy to comprehend—anxiety, loss of appetite, poor sleeping, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior. Reports of children who are depressed, suicidal, or otherwise in danger of harming themselves have already surfaced.”(Zucker). Those children are undergoing a lot of stress, especially not knowing when they will reunite with their parents. Depression can make the children feel as if they are worthless or unlovable, it can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Neglect is failure to provide a child basic needs, it can also be considered as child abuse. The children in the detention centers are being neglected, all over the news, they show those children are living in cages, sleeping on the floor, and covering up with foil covers. As it was reported for harsh conditions for those children who are separated from their families by Pbs news, Reporter Willian Brangham reported that “Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision.” The conditions in the detention centers are harmful to the children. They do not have medical facilities for those children and the temperatures are cold and they are sleeping on the floor, which is not a safe sanitary place for children to be kept. They feel as if they are not human and basic needs such as food, water, and medical attention. Those detention centers are not given those children the need to survive.
There are a lot of effects when depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and neglect are not being acknowledged. It is important to acknowledge these situations to prevent those long-term effects. According to Psychiatric “ if a child is constantly feeling in danger, those stress hormones never go down and that’s what leads to long term chronic medical problems, learning problems, developmental problems and growth”. Impact on those children are not only hurting, but a whole generation is also going to suffer … ” child that can not communicate with words usually express their feelings through actions. the child that can not communicate with words usually express their feelings through actions. Those children can not feed or take care of themselves, for toddlers it will be hard for people to have an idea of what is going on inside, while for older kids, you can see a lot of acting out with such aggressive behavior. According to a study, “ Children separated from parents during migration are more likely to be behind others their age in school and are more likely to drop out of high school.” If anything is being done … and when those children drop out of high school they are more likely to be on the streets and doing drugs and joining gangs, while all that could have been prevented. Therefore, all of those with high power should really be thinking about those children's future.
They are strangers in a strange land, they don’t speak the language. They are putting into a warehouse or detention center. The conditions they are being held at the border can have a profound impact on the children, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression. A basic need for a child is not just food and housing, it is also an attachment with a caregiver such as their families. They need a sense of security, and there is no other way a child can feel saver other than in her/his mother's arms. The cure is to reunite them with their families. Together, we stand firm in shared values of fairness and act with compassion when responding to the needs of those who come to the country seeking protection and better opportunities for their children. Children are innately innocent, they should not be involved. We must put an end to family force separation and allow those children to reunite with their parents and prevent these long terms effects of forced separation. When children are involved, things should resolve with more passion in favor of those children who will eventually have to suffer from mental health problems. Children are the future, they are the next generation, therefore, they should be protected at all costs.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2020). What is Depression? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
- American Psychological Association. (2017). Psychological Trauma. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pubs/highlights/spotlight/issue-113
- Flores, G., Abreu, M., Schwartz, I., & Hill, M. (2018). The Health of Latino Children: Urgent Priorities, Unanswered Questions, and a Research Agenda. Journal of the National Medical Association, 110(2), 104–115. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2017.11.002
- Geltman, P. L., Grant-Knight, W., Ellis, H., Landgraf, J. M., & Larson, K. (2008). Immigration and child health: Perceptions of risks and benefits of the immigrant experience. Journal of immigrant and minority health, 10(4), 311-318. doi: 10.1007/s10903-007-9109-1