July 15, 2019
By Renee Boynton-Jarrett, Vital Village Network
It goes without saying that every child should be treated with justice, humanity, and dignity.
Recent reports of the inhumane conditions in child detention facilities at the southern border of the United States have exposed widespread child neglect and mistreatment. Immigrant rights lawyers who conducted numerous interviews with children inside Border Patrol stations have described the inhumane conditions as a human rights violation and ‘public health emergency.’ There is evidence of unsanitary conditions, insufficient nutrition, lack of basic toiletries and blankets, and denied, delayed, and inadequate medical care. Tragically, the ACLU has reported that at least seven children have died in custody or after being detained.
The most significant necessity that immigrant children seeking safe haven have been denied is the presence of their loving and attentive caregiver.
Family detention and the forcible separation of children from the parents and caregivers at the border has been strongly opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Research has established that the detention of children and forcible separation from their parents can cause anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. UNICEF USA, national experts in child and family well-being, national organizations for pediatrics, psychiatric, medicine, nursing, psychology have confirmed that conditions in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facilities (cold temperatures, inadequate and open toilets, constant light, insufficient food and water, no bathing facilities or materials, cement floors for sleeping) are unsafe and grossly inappropriate settings for children.
Of lower profile but of no less significance, the deportation of a parent can lead to psychological trauma, unstable caregiving, depression, and economic hardships. Research has established that threats of immigration raids can cause stress, anxiety and poor mental health among children. Schools and educators are often important buffers for children and families during these times.
Can we truly uphold the dignity of any one child, if we fail to protect equitable opportunities for all children to experience health and wellness?
We know that children should never reside in settings that fail to meet basic standards for mental and physical health and expose them to trauma or fear, yet many of our community coalitions are coordinated to mitigate toxic social and environmental conditions.
Now that we have evidence of human rights abuses that deny the dignity, respect, and basic needs of children. It is not enough to react to the current situation, we must work collectively as a global community to ensure this will never happen again.
Name it. Describe exactly what forcible family separation and family detention is and how it impacts children and families.
Acknowledge it. Acknowledge the mindsets, social policies, and social structures that contribute to the current situation.
Be aware of the importance of positive collective actions that can help mitigate stress for children through community groups, schools, and interfaith and faith-based collectives.
Address it. Fulfill our duty as members of the human race to protect the human rights of every child and uphold, and fulfill their dignity.
Immediately stop actions that are traumatizing to children and cause toxic stress.
Learn how we can advocate for equitable immigration policies that protects and promotes the wellbeing of every child and family.
It is not a question that every child should be treated with dignity and justice. If our policies and processes are inhumane and unjust we threaten the humanity, dignity, and liberty of every child. Our declaration is simply: all or none.