By Janice Wilberg
The kids in the orphanage in Nicaragua where we adopted three children didn’t cry. They’d already done their crying someplace else.
They might have looked concerned but they didn’t cry when passed from one person to the next like a bowl of mashed potatoes being passed at Thanksgiving dinner. In their tiny heads they had figured out the futility of complaint. There was no use crying, it wouldn’t change anything.
They had already lost everything.
Children cope with abandonment. They will appear to cope at least. And how they appear to cope is that they don’t cry. It won’t be long before the little children who have been separated from their parents by American immigration officials, who feel the same as if their parents had abandoned them on the side of the road, it won’t be long before they stop crying. Because crying won’t change anything.
In their minds, they have lost everything. They don’t know about immigration law or Congress or what their parents are doing to find them. They have been abandoned as surely as my three kids in the Nicaraguan orphanage. And while my kids have grown up and are good, decent, loving people, they were damaged by what happened to them. There is no talking it through, no making sense of it. The damage they suffered was organic, visceral, sudden, and terrifying. And permanent.
So it is quite disturbing that any American elected official would consider causing such desolation to a child as part of a political strategy to gain advantage in negotiating an immigration bill. This is intentional psychological maiming of children done to win concessions, a border wall, perhaps, or drastic limits on legal immigration from various countries or from everywhere.
The cost of this strategy will be enormous. People’s lives will be permanently changed by what happened to them as small children in these terrifying detention centers; they will grow up hurt and damaged. And there won’t be eager adoptive parents on the receiving end, committed to teaching their babies to cry again.
The kids in the Nicaraguan orphanage were there for a million different reasons – death, poverty, illness. Every reason was an accident in life. No one planned to inflict the pain of abandonment on their children, it just happened as a terrible consequence of hardship. So there was the fact of abandonment and its terrible effects on the psyches of young children, but there wasn’t an intention to harm them.
The deep and durable harm being visited on border children right now by our United States government is fully and completely intentional. The government means to harm these children and it is doing so in our names. Yours and mine. And now the perpetrators are quoting the Bible as justification for their actions. Lord help us.
As Americans, we can’t allow this to continue. We can’t be part of intentionally maiming children who came to our country for safety. We are people who rescue the hurt and wounded. That is what we need to do now.
Tell your Congressional representatives to support the Keep Families Together Act. Call or write your elected Representative and Senators today. Remind them that we are not a country that intentionally harms children.
Janice Wilberg, Ph.D. Time of the Month Club, Inc.
Milwaukee Business Journal 2018 Woman of Influence Awardee