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Children deserve as much care as the unborn

August 9, 2018

Diane W.MUFSON

America has an immigration problem; it’s nothing new. Past Republican and Democratic presidents have tried to develop a comprehensive plan, but Congress is so bull-headed that instead of making reasonable progress, we’ve exacerbated the issue.

In our political leaders’ most recent efforts to stem immigration from the Mexican border, our nation developed a hideous plan — separate children of any age from their parents. Is this the same country whose politicians want to ban abortion because they care so much about children and because they believe that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain? Live children deserve as much care and pain prevention as the unborn.

How can a country that prides itself on freedom and love for family believe that it’s fine to separate little children from their parents? Actually, our nation’s leaders have done this before. We’ve used planned parental-child separations of slave and Native American children to satisfy our leaders’ economic and social goals. This time the goal was to discourage immigration.

We urgently need a rational plan to handle immigration. A multi-billion-dollar wall not paid for with Mexico’s money, but our own tax dollars, will not solve the problem. It could make a dent in illegal Latin American immigration, but when people are determined and desperate, there are ways over and under walls that make scenes we do not want to view on any form of media. We have already been horrified by them at the Berlin Wall.

As I write this column, and despite a judge’s ruling that required reunifications be completed before now, a few hundred children remain separated from their parents. Reports also say we have deported some parents, but still have their children in our facilities. Obviously when you place adults and children in far-off accommodations and have incompetent plans to undo the mess, reunification is not simple. What we have done with these children and their parents is cruel and inhumane. Politicians on both sides of the aisle understand this.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, remarked that the plan was “well-intentioned but had unintended consequences ... no one should have to suffer such abuse.” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that while it is “imperative to enforce the law ... the best place for children is with their parents.”

Interestingly, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology said in 2013 that a major scientific study in 2005 found that a fetus was unlikely to feel pain until the third trimester or about 27 weeks of gestation. Political rhetoric, not scientific findings, insist that pain prior to birth can be felt at a much earlier time. Yet, no one who developed this cruel plan of separating children from their parents, considered how much pain this plan would cause both children and their parents.

Numerous psychological studies have shown that separation from parents is difficult for most children, especially preschoolers. How many of you can recall the cries and screams from your children when you were just going out for a short period of time? Most children learn that their parents return, and so separation becomes less traumatic. But when parents don’t return after a short period and children are sent to unfamiliar places with strange people controlling and surrounding them, emotional and social problems often follow. Studies have shown that children who experience these situations are at high risk for developing PTSD, depression, anxiety and difficulty trusting others.

Whatever our nation’s problems and politics, we must treat live children with as much consideration and care as the unborn.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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