I don’t entirely know what to say about this whole situation. I’m sure there are things I don’t know or understand about the complexity of the situation, but what I can’t wrap my mind around is how separating children from their parents is any sort of solution to the problem of immigration. It just sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, intended to deter other immigrants or refugees from coming across the border.

If you have not yet seen this article by the Washington Post, you should definitely check it out. It makes it clear that’s it’s not a solution to immigration, but instead a means for control.

It’s appalling enough that children are being separated from their parents, but what’s even more appalling is the ways in which those working in the facilities are forced to interact with children. They can’t get their parents; they can’t even touch them unless they have to change a diaper.

I’m reminded of a story I read about in Jeremy Rifkin’s The Empathic Civilization. It was about the governing practices of orphanages in the early 1900s. Like the children currently at the border of the United Staes and Mexico, the infants were not allowed to be touched by nurses. In fact, in order to change diapers or clean them, they were forced to used sterile instruments, in an effort to limit the transmission of diseases. It was believed that the less physical contact a child received, the less likely it was that he or she would contract a fatal disease that could be spread to the others.

They eventually found that the children were getting sick and dying anyway, in some cases with as many as 75% of infants dying in various orphanages. It wasn’t until 1931 when Harry Bawkin, author of “Loneliness in Infants” changed the practices that permeated orphanages across the country.

“Bawkin ordered new signs to be put up across the pediatric unit that read: ‘Do not enter this nursery without picking up a baby.’ Infection rates declined, and infants began to thrive.”

Bawkin recognized that the children were missing something they so desperately needed: love. They needed to be held, touched, and talked to. It turned out that human contact and connection was necessary to their physiological health and survival.

What’s happening now at the border is not only inhumane: it’s an act of war. We know this sort of treatment leaves a long-lasting impact, similar to how physical trauma and violence would. But instead of explicit physical violence, it’s emotional violence, besetting scars upon these children that will impact them for the rest of their lives. What’s more, the United States will pass off the blame for these scars onto the victims themselves. As a result, these children will grow up with an insecure and anxious attachment to the adults around them, and even more likely, with an deeply buried hatred for the United States and the way it has victimized families who are just trying to find respite. The ripple effects of this sort of trauma are staggering.

Under the guise of protecting freedom and protecting our wealth, the United States has effectively withdrawn the love and care children need–and they’re using it as a weapon.

It’s disgusting. And I’m disgusted to be an American right now.

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