I awoke this morning with a pit in my stomach.
I have knowledge and (now) photographic evidence of what is happening to children and families on our nation’s southern border.
I know too much.
I’m parenting kids who have themselves been separated from their own biological parents in moments of duress and loss. I see the toll it takes over time. I hear the questions that linger. I work toward the healing. I hold them in the loss. I can’t put it all back together for them.
Right now, about 45 children per day (over 2000 total) are facing this kind of childhood trauma due to the revised implementation of our immigration policies at the border. Children are being separated from their families. Kids are being detained and held in chain link kennels. As a dad, I am chilled by the recent, immoral implementation of immigration practices.
I’ve seen too much.
In 2015, I wrote about the phenomenon of “unaccompanied minors” showing up at our schools. Currently, I am leading a school that saw multiple new arrivals trickle in, in the second half of our school year, after being detained at the southern border. Each student who arrived looked completely shell-shocked. When given the space to share about their recent experiences to a safe Spanish speaking adult on campus, they did so with courage. “Hacia frio. Hacia frio.” They slept on concrete floors. The lights stayed on 24 hours of the day. The blanket issued was like a big sheet of tin foil. Food was minimal and vacuum sealed. Disbelief lingered. Loss mounted. Cries went out.
When I first heard, I couldn’t believe it.
But then the reports surfaced this last week in the national news. The pictures showed a reality that our students had been describing. The stories checked out. What’s worse? At a clip of 45 kids a day, it is still continuing.
But these are our kids.
No matter how the courts decide to handle the asylum applications of our families, these will be our students. They will be in class with our own children. They will live next door. They will graduate from our universities and attend our staff meetings.
Those kids are our kids.
As citizens of this great country, let’s demand that trauma inducing practices stop. Let’s take the long view. Let’s provide translation rather than vacuum sealed meals. Let’s give “brazos” rather than judgement.
In our schools, let’s ensure emotional safety before sending them into the science lab. Let’s let them record their memories before we force them to memorize the amendments of the Constitution. Let’s be a school, a district, a learning community that provides structure, welcome and love. The learning will come.
But first the welcome.
Image by Adam McLane via Flickr
*Hours after writing this, our president issued an executive order halting the separation of families at the border. It is still unclear if/ when currently separated children and parents will be re-united.