The children’s trauma begins long before they cross the U. S. border and are separated from their families.
Let’s backtrack. Families from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, state they are fleeing rampant violent crime, gangs, corrupt governments, drug traffickers, and more. Family and friends have been beaten, tortured, killed. This is the impetus for the journey. These are not simple car or bus rides. No flight delays or griping about long security lines. Rather, families and children smuggled in vans packed tight with bodies, lacking sufficient air, food, and water. They traverse through desert with no map and only a vague idea as to their U. S. destination. There are missteps, miscalculations, as well as outright deceit by smugglers. According to a New York Times report September 24, 2017, “some children reported being raped or held hostage by smugglers for more money. Others have been abandoned by smugglers as they try to cross the border.” There is no medical help. The uncertainty of whether they will actually make it or not is strong.
According to a 2016 Washington study by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) “more than 6,500 migrants have died along the U.S.-Mexican border since 1998, and that number is almost certainly an underestimate of the scale of the tragedy.” Heatstroke and exposure determined as the leading causes of death.
52,000 undocumented and unaccompanied children were caught at the U.S.- Mexican border from October 2013 to June 2014. Over 10,000 were housed in the United States in concrete holding facilities.
These are lives steeped in trauma. Trump’s October 2017 mandate to separate immigrant children from their families added another layer to traumatized lives. By all reports, the public outcry which began mid June 2018 decried children separated from family as the only trauma recognized.
On this side of the border, we have the annoying privilege of choosing and relating narratives that are self-serving. We mobilize and protest as if lives do not exist until we take notice. We choose the beginning and the end of the stories. It’s like believing Ann Frank and her families’ tragedy began in an attic when we picked up her diary. In truth, the making of her horror began years prior with our complacency. The memories and mourning continue today.
We emphasize the long-term effect of being separated. We cite professionals whose expert testimony supports our narrative. Camera’s zoom in on crying children, ages are given in months instead of years. We slant their story to serve us. For we have become prolific at shouting ENOUGH. NO MORE. I STAND WITH. We flood social media with new profile frames, calls to contact politicians, proclamations to sign until…Until it benefits us to promote their resilience.
When ready, we will single out one or a group and showcase how despite their traumatic separations they have moved forward. We will bolster this with professional testimony to the resilience of children and those oppressed. We will cheer and indirectly take credit for bringing these otherwise ignored voices to the forefront. And we will feel damned good about ourselves in the process. WE THE PEOPLE!
June 20, 2018 Trump ordered an end to the family separation policy. New cries erupted on the need to now locate children and reunite them with family. The July 6th court ordered deadline for reunification has since come and gone.
The danger of being “the voice” for others is our protests and actions become the focal point. We become the story. Soon enough we move on to the next twitter rant, social media post, headline of injustice, violation of human rights, meanness. We talk the talk but in truth we are sprinters not marathon runners. For you see, August 2018 (44 days after the deadline) there are still thousands of children (immigrant and otherwise) who remain lost. Mothers and fathers still wiping tears and praying to their god as they jump through bureaucratic hoops leading to dead ends. There are agencies and organizations continuing the frontline work even though the cameras have shifted and our rally cries have faded to a distracted whisper.