How to Help Immigrant Children Separated from Their Parents at the Border

Do you know what your child’s love language is?

The concept of “love languages” was introduced by Gary Chapman his book The Five Love Languages and later applied to parenting in The Five Love Languages of Children, which he co-authored with Dr. Ross Campbell.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version as it applies to parenting. Children express and receive love in different ways — some through acts of service; others through affirming words; still others through gifts, quality time or physical touch. Each of these expressions of love represents a different “language.” If you want you children to feel love, you must speak their language.

Kratovil Girl No. 3 definitely speaks “physical touch.” It’s not enough to just say “I love you” to her, she literally needs to feel love. What started out as liking to be held as a baby has morphed into a need for simple gestures like a touch of the arm, a pat on the back, and the occasional hug.

Her bedtime routine includes what she has termed “cuddling service,” ten or so minutes of leaning up against either her dad or me and talking about whatever she is currently obsessed with. These days it’s the Marvel universe. Fun fact I learned from one of our cuddling sessions-there is a super hero lawyer. Who knew? Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk) was unfortunately the recipient of a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk). How the Hulk got through the blood donation screening process is beyond me. Good news for her potential medical malpractice claim, she’s also a lawyer.

So back to love languages for children. I, like many of you, have watched the heart-wrenching images of children separated from their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing the U.S. border. In the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care (more than 100 of those children were under the age of 4).

How many of those kids are like my Kelsey, needing the assurance of a pat on the back or a quick hug to feel safe and secure? What is it like for a child to suddenly be in an environment without love, where no one cares what they need to feel safe and secure?

So what can we do about it? Complain on social media? Pick a fight with the guy at Walmart wearing a “Make a America Great Again” baseball cap?

Learn the facts

Arm yourself with knowledge and you will be in a better position to help and to join the debate.

So what are the facts? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Crossing the border outside a port of entry is a crime, as is entering the country without permission.
  • Illegal entry into the U.S. the first time is a misdemeanor, the second time it’s a felony.
  • Federal authorities have discretion over whether to press charges.
  • Over the last few years, illegal immigration has shifted from single males from Mexico to women, children, and families from Central America.
  • During the Obama administration, these women, children, and families from Central America were kept in family detention centers, but only for 20 days because that’s the limit to how long the government can hold children (a topic too legalese to go into here). After 20 days, they were released until their court dates.
  • The Trump administration has decided to criminally prosecute every person who crosses the border illegally. If the parent is going to be held longer than 20 days (which will be the case if it’s his or her second time crossing the border illegally, a felony), his or her kids will be taken away because the kids can’t be held longer than 20 days.

Now that we know the facts, what can we do?

Contact your elected representatives

Call or e-mail your elected officials and let them know that this issue is important to you.

I know there are lots of potential “scripts” circulating around the internet, but let’s keep it simple and doable. What we need is legislation allowing families to be kept together. That’s it.

To learn how to get in touch with your federal, state, and local elected leaders, check out https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.

Suport charities and organizations that are helping immigrant children

If you want to do something to help the kids being separated from their families at the border, you can support one of the many organizations dedicated to helping these kids, including the following:

  • Donate directly to the kids. Baby2Baby and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) set up a baby registry at Target to send bundles of essentials like diapers, wipes, shampoo and soap directly to immigrant children.
  • Support the lawyers who are providing legal aid for immigrant families. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), the largest immigration services legal nonprofit in Texas, aims to provide legal services to every released unaccompanied child in the state, which could be around 13,000 kids. The Florence Project and Refugee Rights Project provides legal assistance and social services to detained immigrants in Arizona. Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND) works to ensure that no child appears in immigration court alone without representation.
  • Volunteer. Do you speak Spanish? The Texas Civil Rights Project is looking for people who speak Spanish to help translate for families and their children who have been separated, as well as volunteers to help with the legal intake process.

Finally, one simple thing to do at home. Whether it be acts of service, affirming words, gifts, quality time, or physical touch, remember to speak your child’s love language.

Do you have any other ideas on how we can help immigrant children separated from their parents? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

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