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Thread: Kids are being traumatized as adults fight over immigration, doctors say

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  1. #1
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    Kids are being traumatized as adults fight over immigration, doctors say

    Kids are being traumatized as adults fight over immigration, doctors say

    By Tammy Grubb
    The Durham Herald Sun

    July 02, 2018 05:54 PM

    DURHAM Luisa was taken into custody in January at the border in El Paso, Texas, leaving the 11-year-old's parents in the dark for 45 days about where she was and if they would see her again.
    Because her family is living here illegally and fears immigration authorities, Luisa's mother Cenaida agreed to be interviewed on the condition The Herald-Sun not publish her full name.
    Cenaida said it took many worried calls before she was allowed to speak with Luisa — two times a week for 20 minutes. Her daughter was told not to talk about her location or the temporary home where she was being kept in her room except to eat, do chores and go to school. The woman who ran the house made the kids stay very quiet, Cenaida, 31, said through an interpreter.
    When she finally reached Durham, Luisa was timid and emotionally detached, said Maria Mejia, a family advocate with the East Durham Children’s Initiative, a nonprofit agency that helps at-risk children be successful. Luisa is still depressed and anxious, Cenaida said.

    “We try to bring them here because of their future, and they are are traumatized, because they don't know the people who are taking them away," Cenaida said. "It's a new environment; they don’t know if they're going to come back to mom and dad. It’s very hard for them to be in these [temporary] homes. They intimidate them, and they're not able to be themselves."

    A 'chilling experience'

    Detainment centers haven't changed much, said Julie Linton, a Winston-Salem pediatrician who visited several Office of Refugee resettlement shelters and the Border Patrol's processing center in McAllen, Texas, in 2016.
    Linton recalled the cage-like fences stretching from floor to ceiling in the warehouse-type buildings. The lights stayed on 24/7, she said, and detainees were given floor mats and Mylar blankets to sleep on the concrete floors.
    Adults and children who have been taken into custody for illegal entry into the United States sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. "The Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents . . . is a cruel and deliberate practice designed to sow fear and panic in migrant communities," Democratic Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill said.
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP

    "When I see pictures of it, I still have a physiological reaction myself, and I am a white physician, U.S. citizen, who was there for three hours not being detained. It was a really chilling experience to be inside that facility," said Linton, who also is co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Immigration Health Special Interest Group.
    At least 2,342 children have been taken into custody at the border since May 5, when President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy took effect. However, an NBC News report found the government has been running a “pilot program” since 2016 that may have separated another 1,768 children from their parents between October 2016 and February 2018.
    Many of the children have since been moved into government-contracted shelters.
    A national outcry prompted Trump to end the practice of separating families in June, and a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite families within 30 days. The administration reported last week that at least 500 families have been reunited.

    The U.S. Border Patrol released video of a brief tour they gave reporters inside a detention facility in McAllen, Texas, where it holds families arrested at the southern U.S. border. The video shows adult and children housed in cages.
    By US Customs and Border Protection Office via Storyful

    Building stress

    But even short-term separation can cause "toxic stress" and lifelong consequences, medical professionals and organizations have said. Toxic stress affects a child's developing brain, leading to developmental delays and later health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse and depression.
    The problem is compounded for adults and older youths who fled or lost relatives to violence in their home countries or may have had to leave family members behind, the pediatricians said.

    "Many have had their lives threatened, have not been permitted to send their children to school due to direct threats, have experienced personal or family violence against them or their families or threats of such, and are seeking safety and hope for their children," Linton said.
    Cenaida said she's not sure how much of Luisa's detachment is related to her detainment at the border and how much was caused by the years she had already spent away from her parents. Cenaida and Olin left their then-infant daughter with a grandmother in Honduras in 2008 when they traveled to the United States looking for work. Luisa traveled with her uncle to the U.S. this year to rejoin her family.
    Next year, an immigration court judge will decide Luisa's fate. Although their two sons are U.S. citizens, Cenaida and her husband Olin do not have legal status, and the family is afraid they also could be detained when Luisa's court hearing comes up in April.

    Local advocates said the level of stress and anxiety for immigrants has grown since Trump's election. The recent separation of families and immigration raids added to the stress and fear for those at the border and those living here, advocates and pediatricians said.

    The link between adversity and lifelong health was documented in the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which found that having four or more of 10 specific childhood experiences was associated with a significantly high incidence of substance abuse and illness.
    Young immigrants are being treated for bodily dysfunctions, such as bed wetting or changes in eating and sleeping habits, along with increased anxiety and depression, local pediatricians said. Other children act numb and detached, or start acting out, they said. Very young children may suffer extreme separation fears or develop brain-related disorders, like memory or speech problems, they said.

    Another solution

    Immigrant families wouldn't be anxious or stressed if they didn't enter the United States illegally, others contend, or pay smugglers to bring them over the border. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made similar comments after announcing the separation policy in May.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border by citing a passage from the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

    “I have to say our goal is to have the whole world know that this border is not open,” Sessions said. "Don’t come unlawfully. Don’t put yourself or your family through such a stressful thing."

    William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC in Raleigh, agreed.

    His group doesn't hate or fear immigrants, and they don't think families should be separated, Gheen said.

    Those arriving illegally should be deported within 24 hours through a secure checkpoint instead, he said, and asylum seekers should start at the U.S. embassy in their home country.

    Immigrant stress gets more attention than U.S. veterans who kill themselves every day, he noted, and the rising suicide rate among American farmers. It's also stressful, he said, to watch the government ignore American interests and leave the borders open to drugs, criminals and people who live off taxpayer dollars.

    "It's stressful as an American to know that my laws and Constitution, elections, mean nothing, because despite the outcome of the election, despite what the laws are, despite what the Constitution says about protecting states from invasion, none of that matters," he said.

    Local need growing

    Linton said detaining families — together or separately — won't stop immigration. However, reunification can help repair some of the mental and physical damage, she said.
    Many immigrants living in Durham without legal status have sought help at El Futuro.
    Spokeswoman Kerry Brock said the nonprofit clinic has served 20 percent more Durham County families in the last three years, and the number grows every month. Last year, the clinic provided 9,196 treatment services to 1,547 clients, roughly half of whom arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors, a report shows.
    Dozens of women, men and their children, many fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras, Guatamala and El Salvador, arrive at a bus station following release from Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Texas.
    Spencer Platt Getty Images

    Besides addressing issues such as mental illness, trauma and substance abuse, El Futuro's staff also works with parents to reassure their children, Brock said. That includes creating emergency plans for where the children will go and with whom if problems arise, she said.

    It's been a challenge keeping up with the demand for bilingual, culturally sensitive providers, Brock said.
    "We've just brought on two new staff members that we're really excited about, and we just last month moved into a 40 percent larger space in Durham to accommodate the growth that we're seeing," she said.
    Duke Children's Hospital refers some clients to El Futuro but treats others, including U.S.-born children with immigrant parents.

    Gabriela Maradiaga Panayotti, a general pediatrician at Duke Children’s Hospital, said family immigration status is requiring doctors to be more creative in how they help some families. Fearful families skip appointments, for instance, or ignore a doctor's advice, like the family that was afraid to go outside and be more active because they might be arrested, she said.
    "It's just heartbreaking, because the majority of the families I see ... are asylum seekers or came across the border in an illegal way, but they're working, they're paying taxes, they're just doing their thing and not getting in anybody's way," Maradiaga Panayotti said.

    Community support

    Support for groups, such as RAICES — the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services — and shelters that are helping immigrant families, and reaching out to people in the community also can help families heal, advocates said.

    "One thing is actually just figuring out ways you can welcome people to your community," Maradiaga Panayotti said, "whether it's inviting over a new neighbor for dinner, or inviting people to block parties or things like that, just to help people get connected in their community and expand their network of support while their facing these stresses."
    Patricia, a 31-year-old mother of four, also spoke on the condition that her family, which has mixed immigration status, be identified by first names only

    She and her husband have built a supportive community with a diverse group of neighbors in east Durham, Patricia said through an interpreter, and she is teaching her children — ages, 5, 9, 10 and 16 — to speak their minds and be accepting of others.
    They recently joined a group protesting immigration policies, Patricia said. It felt good to fight for what is right, said Jovanna, 10. She wants people to know that life for immigrants is very hard in their home countries, she said.
    Thousands gathered on Saturday calling for immigration reform on the Bicentennial Mall, speaking out against children being separated from their families during a Families Belong Together Rally on Saturday, June 30, 2018 in Raleigh, N.C

    "We have watched the news about it, and we watched how immigrants try to come over here and they bring their kids, and they take their kids away from them, and they put them somewhere where they can't see their parents," she said. "I feel sad for the parents that they can't see their kids."

    Emotionally, her children are scared, Patricia said. Her eldest son has been most affected by discrimination in school and because he missed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals renewal deadline, he's not sure if college and career are possible now, she said.

    They see people who avoid sitting near them in public, she said, and who talk about them as if they are criminals who don't pay taxes.
    "People around us say we come here to the States to take whatever benefits we can out of the taxes they pay," Patricia said. "It's hard for [immigrants] — as the hardworkers they are — to hear comments like that."
    The current approach isn't going to fix the problem, Mariadaga Panayotti said, especially when many children are U.S. citizens.

    "These are real, traumatic medical conditions happening to these children that will have real, tangible impact in the future, and ignoring it now is only to our peril as a society," she said. "The more resources we can put into these children, the better chance they'll have of doing well in the future."

    Last edited by ALIPAC; 07-03-2018 at 04:30 PM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Ship every minor back home immediately through the nearest Consulate. If home countries don't cooperate, no aid, no trade.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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  4. #4
    Senior Member 6 Million Dollar Man's Avatar
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    Feb 2017
    Immigrant families wouldn't be anxious or stressed if they didn't enter the United States illegally
    That's what I always say.

    Oh, and it's "ILLEGAL ALIENS", not "immigrants".
    Beezer likes this.

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