My Personal Experience With Separation
When I was a young child of perhaps 3 or 4 years of age, my parents took me with them to a hospital where my mother was to have minor outpatient surgery. While we were in the waiting room, I was happy, content, and without a care. When my mother was finally called, she looked at me and asked if I wanted to stay there in the waiting room and continue playing or go with them. I suppose she noticed how happy and content I was playing in the waiting room and thought maybe I would be OK if she and my father went in for her surgery leaving me in the waiting room to play. I couldn’t blame them as I remember I was feeling happy and having a great time. So they left me there while they went to meet with her doctors.
However, as time went by, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. At first, I could comfort myself by thinking, “They’ll be back anytime now.” And I just kept playing. I couldn’t tell time of course, so I hadn’t thought to look at the clock on the wall. Thus, I had no idea how much time had passed since they left. There came a point where I began to fear that perhaps something was wrong. Perhaps something had happened to my parents. These thoughts were all I could tolerate, and I began to cry. As I cried in the waiting room, I tried to be good and stay in the waiting room until my parents returned. However time just went on and on. It seemed to me no one could hear me crying. Finally after another hour or so, I totally panicked. “What if my parents would never come back for me?” This thought filled me with horror.
I ran into the room next door to see if I could find my parents there. Then I ran to a nursing station and wailed loudly to see if anyone would help me. A nurse started calling on the loud speakers probably reporting that a little boy was lost and crying. I didn’t even know English at the time, so I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. I was all alone. I remember being filled with dread, anxiety, regret that I thought I could sit alone and wait for my parents to return, worried that something had happened to my mother, and filled with sadness and the sheer horror that I could be abandoned! Finally, my parents came back and got me. However, the whole thing was so traumatic that I still remember it today.
President Trump’s Inhumanity
What I just described above occurred when I was left alone for a few hours. I cannot even begin to understand what it might be like for immigrant kids being separated forcefully from their parents at the U.S. Mexico border. Unlike me, these children know that there is something wrong. They know they have been taken from their parents. Depending on their age, they don’t understand why. And even if they could understand that President Trump thinks he can dissuade illegal immigrants and their families from coming to the the U.S. by traumatically separating them from their parents, this would only serve to confirm their fears, anxiety, and sense of terror! This is unjust and inhuman. This must end.
Irrevocable Harm Is Done By Separating Children From Their Families
Medical and nursing professions know that separating children from their mothers can cause irrevocable harm. There is an entire literature on this subject. Some of this literature is from times when children were not allowed to see a parent who was sick in a hospital and times when children were placed in orphanages that didn’t provide adequate care and stimulation. Children were alright at the beginning although traumatized. However as the days passed, they would become practically depressed and could not be comforted no matter how hard nurses tried to comfort them. It was heartbreaking. Sometimes when children under 2 years of age were involved, the baby could stop eating, become listless, and develop a condition called failure to thrive. These children were at risk of dying. This was was not because they didn’t have a place to sleep, food to eat, or supervision. This was simply due to the psychological, social, and physical consequences of separation from their attachment figures! These kids seemed to prefer to die than to live without the person they were attached to.
Findings like the ones just described led to changes being made in hospitals, orphanages, and other child-care facilities. Yet because our current President believes that immigrants are a scourge on our society, he and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have created a policy where children are being abused psychologically, victimized, and traumatized beyond their immature abilities to adapt. I read a news story in the New York Times today where a mother was deported to Guatemala without her son! This type of child abuse can cause separation anxiety disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, depression, feeding disorders, elimination disorders, and it can increase the child’s chances of developing aggression, autonomic hyperactivity, affect dysregulation, and inability to establish intimate relationships in the future. This is wrong; and as a society we must speak up about this abuse being committed on vulnerable, immigrant children, and their parents!
A Call to Evangelical Christians To Live Out Their Faith In Love Not Hate
So what does our Christian tradition have to say about this? We just need to read Matthew 18 to see that there is no escaping God’s judgment for doing something so cruel, callous, and totally unnecessary to the most powerless of all – children! Matthew 18 states:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!¹
Deuteronomy 10:19 says, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”¹
Psalms 146:9 says, “The Lord watches over strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”¹
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”¹
Finally, Romans 12:13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”¹
Now, does that sound like President Trump’s policies of xenophobia and outright hatred of immigrants? No, it certainly does not. Evangelical Christians have backed President Trump and his administration’s show of blatant disregard for human rights, disregard for democracy, in-your-face adultery and debauchery, the pursuit of riches to the point of corruption, egocentricity, and narcissism. Evangelical Christians have thus far supported abject inhospitality to refugees and immigrants that come to America seeking nothing but a better life. But will Evangelical Christians disregard their faith totally by literally putting stumbling blocks in the path of powerless children potentially causing a lifetime of psychological disorders? Please call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and ask them to stop this unconscionable behavior on the part of the U.S. executive branch.
¹Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Anglicised bible retrieved June 18, 2018 at https://www.biblegateway.com/