A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Public Charge Regulation. It seems to me that I should have better introduced the subject by bringing to light the plight of many immigrant children in our nation.
Immigrant children comprise a significant percentage of our population. This is a vulnerable population that has seen a steady rise for the last couple of decades. In certain states, the immigrant population growth has more than doubled since 2000 (e.g., North and South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee). This population lives in constant stress as the executive branch of our government has criminalized their behavior and equated their presence to a rising tide of dangerous gangs. The false aspersions have been a political ruse using children as pawns to subvert our sense of social decency in favor of ideological bigotry.
I am not a politician, but I am unabashedly pro-children. I see great shame in our government’s attempts at changing policies that downgrade our public health and status of vulnerable members within our communities. Our nation legislated in favor of the protection of immigrant children. In effect, the decades old Flores Settlement requires the government to prioritize the welfare of children when assuming their custody. It also requires that children must be held in the least restrictive and appropriate setting, generally in a non-secure facility that is licensed by a child welfare agency. New regulations by the Trump administration attempt to repeal this legislation, favoring the indefinite detention of families and erasing the licensing requirements of detention centers by child welfare agencies. In essence, the Department of Homeland Security has now been elevated to assume the role of custodians of immigrant children. The end result has been the detention of toddlers and their being forced to deportation court alone, without legal representation. They are now detained in gigantic chain-link cages where their lack of playful activities makes for an eerie silence. Children released from these facilities are now experiencing signs of severe mental stress; they crouch, hide from adults, and no longer talk.
Figure: Children defending themselves at Immigration Court. How low has the Trump administration dragged the moral standards of this nation?
A 2-year-old who crossed the border along with her mother died from a respiratory infection after being released from a detention facility. The mother who was seeking asylum REPEATEDLY BEGGED to have health care for her baby. She saw her baby with respiratory difficulties and knew this was not normal. The cry for help was repeatedly silenced by the contractors of the facility. “Three days before Mother’s Day, instead of bringing her daughter home, Juarez left a New Jersey Hospital with only an ink print of Mariee’s right hand” (https://abcnews.go.com/US/mother-toddler-died-released-ice-custody-files-wrongful/story?id=57473060). Her mother was only able to helplessly watch as her child slowly died before her eyes. I am sure that in today’s society a 2-year-old child with a respiratory tract infection could have been saved with adequate medical care.
Figure: Immigrant children have faces. This is the face of 2 year-old Mariee killed by governmental bigotry. How was justice served with her death?
Rosa Maria Hernandez lived in the United States since she was 3 months of age. Unfortunately, she was born with cerebral palsy and pyloric stenosis. Her gastric condition blockaded food from going into her small intestine. At the age of 10 years she needed surgery. Federal agents arrested her parent while Rosa was in the operating room and deported them to Mexico. Rosa Maria herself was arrested after her operation. It seems that Homeland Security deemed a 10 year-old with cerebral palsy recovering from surgery a national threat.
The US government presently promotes fear, uncertainty and toxic stress in immigrant children. It is known in neurosciences that stress changes the architecture of the brain. It simplifies connections and makes them more fragile. This provides for negative health outcomes, making children more susceptible to develop obesity, heart problems, and diabetes in the long run. Under normal circumstances talking to parents would be the best way to relieve this stress. In these cases, families are separated, and parental support is blocked by the government.
Compounding the problem, the executive branch is legislating a “Public Charge” policy. The proposed legislation requires the analysis of financial means as a way of deciding who will stay within the United States, who will receive citizenship, and who can derive governmental assistance benefits (e.g., supplemental nutrition aid). Under this law, a family of 4 would require an income of $63,000 in order to stay within the United States. The majority of American families in this country would fail this test. As a result of the threatening legislation immigrant families are cowering away from much needed help, making their plight even worse.
We should all engage in the debate (please see my previous blog). We need to promote openness and respect for our cultural differences and to keep the safety and health of our children first in our hearts and actions.
Figure: (Translation) Over every child there should be a sign: Handle delicately as they contain dreams.