The Forgotten Ones in the Immigration Debate: The Children
Mar 01, 2011 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
There is a new book, hot off the press, which addresses an especially vulnerable group within the immigrant community: the children. The book is: Adapted from Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2011).
I was privileged to see the manuscript before its publication and wrote this blurb, which appears in the book:
Lost in the rhetoric in the media and the political posturing over immigration are the most vulnerable victims of its harsh realities: the children. With a wise pastoral touch, Conde-Frazier highlights the complex challenges these young ones face as they seek a way forward in a strange land. We need to put a human face on those who live in the shadows! This book is a timely guide in that direction.
Next week I will post a full review. In the meantime, here is a piece that is adapted from Listen to the Children. It will give you a taste of what it offers.
Ramon was nine years old when his family came to the United States. He was a bright and curious child who had the highest grades in his class at home. When he came to the US, he seemed disinterested in schoolwork. He spent hours roaming the school hallways aimlessly. He spoke with an imaginary friend and cried as he explained, “My friend, my friend, something happened to him. He needs help! Please, please.” It was difficult to comfort Ramon when this happened.
The school counselor tried to contact Ramon’s family, but they did not respond for fear of being reported. Instead, his mother stopped sending him to school. But the disturbing behavior continued, and the social isolation made things worse. Still, his mother’s fear of being deported made her reluctant to seek the support her son needed.
When a family crosses to the United States without having legal status, the crossing itself is dangerous and traumatic. Fear is a constant companion, and the physical experience is often difficult. Families may travel for days, often without sufficient food or water. They may suffer violence—or be witness to violence against others. These experiences cause lasting psychological injuries that hinder the ability to adapt in the new environment, for adults and children alike.
For Ramon and his mother, the church became a refuge and resource. “I listened to how their faith had helped them cope. Just being with others who’d experienced similar circumstances gave me strength. As the months went by, I became less fearful.” She obtained information about supports and connected with people who could help. It gave her a measure of peace to know she was not alone.
How do immigrants deal with the stress related to an uncertain legal status? Sacrifice is a powerful theme in the lives of the adults. It is how they accept inequalities and hardships. Parents make sacrifices, and children respond by striving to be responsible. They are demonstrating their worthiness not only to their parents but to the community and nation they seek to belong to. It is the hope to which they cling.
These are important observations that just begin to scratch the surface of the contribution Listen to the Children can make. Stay tuned for next week!