Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Children need their parents

Children need stability and predictability in their lives.

Two-thousand children have just had the most stable and predictable part of their lives — their parents — taken away from them and in instead were placed in a strange place with no information and no understanding of what is happening to them or for how long.

The imprint this trauma will make on their lives, whether if they are reunited or if they are not, cannot be underestimated. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, in its paper on children with traumatic separation, spells out the consequences: “Children who develop posttraumatic responses to separation from a caregiver present clinically similar to children who have childhood traumatic grief, a condition that occurs when the circumstances related to the death impinge on the grieving process. However, different challenges are present for children whose caregivers are still alive than for those whose caregivers have died. For example, children with traumatic separation have valid reasons to hope for a reunion with the caregiver even if that reunion could not happen for many years or at all. Hoping for reunification with the caregiver can complicate the child’s ability or desire to adjust to current everyday life and to develop healthy coping strategies.

“For some children, the most traumatic aspect of the separation is exposure to frightening events, such as witnessing a parent being handcuffed prior to incarceration; witnessing a caregiver’s beating or rape during immigration; or not knowing whether the caregiver is currently safe (as in cases of deportation or deployment).”

Perhaps ironically, one of the sponsoring organizations behind the paper is Health and Human Services. This extensive must-read Texas Monthly interview with a volunteer working with the parents indicated that the HHS is also overseeing the children once the Department of Homeland Security takes the parents. The truth of what is happening, to asylum seekers no less, is heartbreaking and completely unnecessary.

I can’t help but think about what these children are being subjected to, and the horror their parents are facing.

On June 12, 26 Jewish organizations signed a letter opposing the actions the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are taking. Representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist movements and more. And later this past week, the Orthodox Union came out with its own condemnation of the administration’s actions, a big and necessary step.

I cannot understand those that defend this action. Stephen Miller calls it a simple step, Jeff Sessions loves his zero tolerance approach and Steve Bannon says the administration doesn’t have to justify taking children away from their families, Ask any parent who’s dealt with a school’s zero tolerance policy, and he or she can tell you how unthinking and heartless that kind of policy can be. When circumstances are irrelevant, justice cannot be served. Further, zero tolerance, aka complete intolerance, is anathema to the Justice. Justice is not blind; it needs to recognize that tearing away children from families – especially when no criminal charges have been filed – is inhumane and serves no purpose. As the National Institute of Justice points out, deterrence works when the certainty of punishment is increased, not when its severity is. And tearing apart families is nothing if not severe.

When these traumatized children develop all kind of psychological and behavioral issues, who will pursue justice on their behalf? This heartless lack of concern is heartbreaking.

Children need stability and predictability in their lives.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Lawn Guyland, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. Recently remarried, this Ashkenazi mom of three Mizrahi sons, 26, 23 and 19, splits her time between managing knowledge in corporate America, pursuing a dual masters in public administration and integrated global communications, blogging, relentlessly Facebooking, once-in-a-while veejaying, enjoying the arts and digging out of the post-move carton chaos of her and her husband's melded household.