B1 Intermediate US 127 Folder Collection
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For over 40 years, I've been a clinical social worker
and a developmental psychologist.
And it seemed almost natural for me to go into the helping professions.
My parents had taught me to do good for others.
And so I devoted my career
to working with families in some of the toughest circumstances:
poverty, mental illness,
immigration, refugees.
And for all those years, I've worked with hope and with optimism.
In the past five years, though,
my hope and my optimism have been put to the test.
I've been so deeply disappointed in the way the United States government
is treating families who are coming to our southern border,
asking for asylum --
desperate parents with children, from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,
who only want to bring their kids to safety and security.
They are fleeing some of the worst violence in the world.
They've been attacked by gangs,
assaulted, raped, extorted, threatened.
They have faced death.
And they can't turn to their police because the police are complicit,
corrupt, ineffective.
Then they get to our border,
and we put them in detention centers,
prisons, as if they were common criminals.
Back in 2014, I met some of the first children in detention centers.
And I wept.
I sat in my car afterwards and I cried.
I was seeing some of the worst suffering I'd ever known,
and it went against everything I believed in my country,
the rule of law
and everything my parents taught me.
The way the United States has handled the immigrants
seeking asylum in our country
over the past five years --
it's wrong, just simply wrong.
Tonight, I want to tell you that children in immigration detention
are being traumatized.
And we are causing the trauma.
We in America --
actually, those of us here tonight --
will not necessarily be on the same page with respect to immigration.
We'll disagree on how we're going to handle all those people
who want to come to our country.
Frankly, it doesn't matter to me whether you're a Republican or a Democrat,
liberal or conservative.
I want secure borders.
I also want to keep the bad actors out.
I want national security.
And of course, you'll have your ideas about those topics, too.
But I think we can agree
that America should not be doing harm.
The government, the state, should not be in the business of hurting children.
It should be protecting them,
no matter whose children they are:
your children, my grandchildren
and the children of families just looking for asylum.
Now, I could tell you story after story
of children who have witnessed some of the worst violence in the world
and are now sitting in detention.
But two little boys have stayed with me over these past five years.
One of them was Danny.
Danny was seven and a half years old when I met him in a detention center
in Karnes City, Texas, back in 2014.
He was there with his mother and his brother,
and they had fled Honduras.
You know, Danny is one of these kids that you get to love instantly.
He's funny, he's innocent,
he's charming and very expressive.
And he's drawing pictures for me,
and one of the pictures he drew for me was of the Revos Locos.
The Revos Locos: this is the name
that they gave to gangs in the town that he was in.
I said to Danny,
"Danny, what makes them bad guys?"
Danny looked at me with puzzlement.
I mean, the look was more like,
"Are you clueless or just stupid?"
He leaned in and he whispered,
"Don't you see?
They smoke cigarettes."
"And they drink beer."
Danny had learned, of course, about the evils of drinking and smoking.
Then he said, "And they carry guns."
In one of the pictures,
the stick figures of the Revos Locos are shooting at birds and at people.
Danny told me about the day his uncle was killed by those Revos Locos
and how he ran from his house to his uncle's farmhouse,
only to see his uncle's dead body,
his face disfigured by bullets.
And Danny told me he saw his uncle's teeth coming out the back of his head.
He was only six at the time.
Sometime after that,
one of those Revos Locos beat little Danny badly, severely,
and that's when his parents said,
"We have got to leave or they will kill us."
So they set out.
But Danny's father was a single-leg amputee with a crutch,
and he couldn't manage the rugged terrain.
So he said to his wife,
"Go without me. Take our boys.
Save our boys."
So Mom and the boys set off.
Danny told me he looked back, said goodbye to his father,
looked back a couple of times until he lost sight of his father.
In detention, he had not heard from his father.
And it's very likely that his father was killed by the Revos Locos,
because he had tried to flee.
I can't forget Danny.
The other boy was Fernando.
Now, Fernando was in the same detention center,
roughly the same age as Danny.
Fernando was telling me about the 24 hours he spent in isolation with his mother
in the detention center,
placed there because his mother had led a hunger strike
among the mothers in the detention center,
and now she was cracking under the pressure of the guards,
who were threatening and being very abusive towards her and Fernando.
As Fernando and I are talking in the small office,
his mother burst in,
and she says, "They hear you! They're listening to you."
And she dropped to her hands and knees,
and she began to look under the table, groping under all the chairs.
She looked at the electric sockets,
at the corner of the room,
the floor, the corner of the ceiling,
at the lamp, at the air vent, looking for hidden microphones and cameras.
I watched Fernando as he watched his mother spiral
into this paranoid state.
I looked in his eyes and I saw utter terror.
After all, who would take care of him if she couldn't?
It was just the two of them. They only had each other.
I could tell you story after story,
but I haven't forgotten Fernando.
And I know something about what that kind of trauma,
stress and adversity does to children.
So I'm going to get clinical with you for a moment,
and I'm going to be the professor that I am.
Under prolonged and intense stress,
trauma, hardship, adversity, harsh conditions,
the developing brain is harmed,
plain and simple.
Its wiring and its architecture
are damaged.
The child's natural stress response system is affected.
It's weakened of its protective factors.
Regions of the brain that are associated with cognition,
intellectual abilities,
judgment, trust, self-regulation, social interaction,
are weakened, sometimes permanently.
That impairs children's future.
We also know that under stress, the child's immune system is suppressed,
making them susceptible to infections.
Chronic illnesses, like diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease,
will follow those children into adulthood and likely shorten their lives.
Mental health problems are linked to the breakdown of the body.
I have seen children in detention
who have recurrent and disturbing nightmares,
night terrors,
depression and anxiety,
dissociative reactions,
hopelessness, suicidal thinking
and post-traumatic stress disorders.
And they regress in their behavior,
like the 11-year-old boy
who began to wet his bed again after years of continence.
And the eight-year-old girl who was buckling under the pressure
and was insisting that her mother breastfeed her.
That is what detention does to children.
Now, you may ask:
What do we do?
What should our government do?
Well, I'm just a mental health professional,
so all I really know is about children's health and development.
But I have some ideas.
First, we need to reframe our practices.
We need to replace fear and hostility
with safety and compassion.
We need to tear down the prison walls,
the barbed wire, take away the cages.
Instead of prison, or prisons,
we should create orderly asylum processing centers,
campus-like communities
where children and families can live together.
We could take old motels, old army barracks,
refit them so that children and parents can live as family units
in some safety and normality,
where kids can run around.
In these processing centers,
pediatricians, family doctors,
dentists and nurses,
would be screening, examining,
treating and immunizing children,
creating records that will follow them to their next medical provider.
Social workers would be conducting mental health evaluations
and providing treatment for those who need it.
Those social workers would be connecting families
to services that they're going to need, wherever they're headed.
And teachers would be teaching and testing children
and documenting their learning
so that the teachers at the next school
can continue those children's education.
There's a lot more that we could do in these processing centers.
A lot more.
And you probably are thinking,
this is pie-in-the-sky stuff.
Can't blame you.
Well, let me tell you that refugee camps all over the world are holding families
like those in our detention centers,
and some of those refugee camps are getting it right
far better than we are.
The United Nations has issued reports describing refugee camps
that protect children's health and development.
Children and parents live in family units
and clusters of families are housed together.
Parents are given work permits so they can earn some money,
they're given food vouchers so they can go to the local stores and shop.
Mothers are brought together to cook healthy meals for the children,
and children go to school every day and are taught.
Afterwards, after school, they go home and they ride bikes,
hang out with friends, do homework and explore the world --
all the essentials for child development.
We can get it right. We have the resources to get it right.
What we need is the will and the insistence of Americans
that we treat children humanely.
You know, I can't forget Danny or Fernando.
I wonder where they are today,
and I pray that they are healthy and happy.
They are only two of the many children I met
and of the thousands we know about who have been in detention.
I may be saddened
by what's happened to the children,
but I'm inspired by them.
I may cry, as I did,
but I admire those children's strength.
They keep alive my hope and my optimism in the work I do.
So while we may differ on our approach to immigration,
we should be treating children with dignity and respect.
We should do right by them.
If we do,
we can prepare those children who remain in the United States,
prepare them to become productive, engaged members of our society.
And those who will return to their countries whether voluntarily or not
will be prepared to become the teachers, the merchants, the leaders
in their country.
And I hope together all of those children and parents
could give testimony to the world about the goodness of our country
and our values.
But we have to get it right.
So we can agree to disagree on immigration,
but I hope we can agree on one thing:
that none of us wants to look back at this moment in our history,
when we knew we were inflicting lifelong trauma on children,
and that we sat back and did nothing.
That would be the greatest tragedy of all.
Thank you.
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【TED】Luis H. Zayas: The psychological impact of child separation at the US-Mexico border (The psychological impact of child separation at the US-Mexico border | Luis H. Zayas)

127 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on November 12, 2019
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