Bullying immigrant children in the name of politics

We’ve all seen the news and heard the stories about children being separated from their parents as they cross over the U.S. border. The pictures of human beings, including very young children, behind wire mesh (some argue that they are not really cages) is simply horrifying. Over the past decades, we have seen atrocities happening in many other countries around the world. And we sit and wonder why the citizens of those countries did not do anything to stop it, why no one spoke out. Yet, here in the U.S., children are being torn away from the arms of their parents and it is currently happening while our elected leaders battle it out in rhetoric.

Some people, our president included, believe the forced separation of children from their parents serves as a deterrent to people immigrating to the U.S. They neglect the harm this causes these children and ignore the squalor these people are being detained in. True, these people may be entering the U.S. illegally. However, U.S. law permits immigrants to come to the U.S. to petition for asylum. Additionally, immigrants who are already on U.S. soil have a right to remain in the U.S. pending their court cases. Detaining them in cages and tearing children apart from parents is nowhere mentioned under any of these laws. Rather than stepping up and reforming immigration law and border-crossing operations, the best our lawmakers can come up with is to abuse little kids as a means of discouraging people from entering the U.S.

As a doctor, I feel it imperative that the medical community speak out on this atrocity. Kids forcibly separated from their parents and held in prison-like conditions are indeed harmed. They are subject to psychological and mental stress and the foundation for mental health disorders, including PTSD, is being laid down. Medical studies report the evidence of the harm that happens to children when separated from their parents, especially their mothers, at very young ages. News reports are showing toddlers and infants being taken away from their mothers. These are very critical ages for normal child development. This harm, no matter how long or how brief, is going to cause psychological trauma that will last for a lifetime. Every school has an anti-bullying agenda in place because we know the harms that result from it. Yet, here is the U.S. bullying immigrant children in a horrendous fashion.

Children are voiceless to stand up for themselves. They rely on the adults close to them to be able to meet their needs. They are the most vulnerable citizens of the world and no one should abuse them for any purpose, yet alone politics. These kids have already survived terrible conditions and traveled a painful journey. As humans, we should reach out to help them; not inflict more harm. If they entered the U.S. illegally, deal with it through legal channels, not setting up prison camps and holding them under torturous conditions. Where has humanity gone? How can anyone believe it is OK to harm children?

Much barbarity has happened around the globe while people looked on, holding their words for whatever reason. It can be scary to speak out or even dangerous in some cases. But, if we don’t protect little children, who will? If we allow this horror to continue, we are no better than the other societies that watched as their leaders committed the unthinkable. We are the United States and are better than this. We all need to raise our voices because no matter where our politics lie or what we believe about immigration, it is never OK to harm children in these battles. Change the law, change the process but whatever you do, don’t sit silent and abandon these kids who have already suffered so much in their short lives. We need to restore humanity back to the human race.

Linda Girgis is a family physician who blogs at Dr. Linda.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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