A New Season of Giving

The Holiday Season is upon us, and many people are taking part in the different traditions and festivities. Some of us might be making plans to travel as we are getting ready to spend time with our family and loved ones. In this season of giving, I ask counseling psychologists to pause from the bustling. Let’s take a moment to remember the migrant families that have been detained at our borders.

The topic of migrant families and issues related to detention centers has been broadcasted and given much attention on national television. At the same time, the general public may not have accurate information on the subject. According to the Global Detention Project, the U.S. is considered to have the most extensive immigrant detention system in the world. There are more than 200 detention sites across the country, which include government and privately-operated detention facilities, local jails, and juvenile detention centers. It is estimated that there are 300,000 individuals, including adults, adolescents, and children detained in these facilities on any given day. Also, these individuals may live in harsh and inhumane conditions in these facilities.

Among these individuals, children are the most vulnerable when they find themselves separated from their parents in detention centers. Many of these children are detained and separated from their parents at a critical time of development. Being detained away from their parents may significantly affect the children’s developmental processes.

Although the Trump Administration ended the “zero-tolerance policy” in the summer of 2018, a report from the American Immigration Council indicates that almost 400 children were separated from their parents between June 2018 and March 2019. Among these children, the youngest included infants who were less than 12 months old. According to the report, it is unclear how many months these children remained separated or if they were ever reunited with their parents and families.

According to an article published in APA’s Monitor on Psychology, researchers have found that the trauma caused by family separation greatly affects the mental health of both adults and children. Migrant families are negatively impacted by the detention system policies of our country. For this reason, I can’t help but think of the word “giving” for the holiday season. As professionals, there is much we can do for these families in need.

As part of the season of giving, there are several ways that Counseling Psychologists can advocate and help migrant families and border communities.

  • Understand and inform others of immigration policies and practices.
  • Advocate for human rights and urge government representatives to support these policies.
  • Government detention facilities do not accept donated goods or items; however, many private facilities do allow donations. Please contact your local facility.
  • Visit immigrants that have detained in your area. There are parts of the country that allow volunteers to visit detention centers and provide moral support. You can find this list from the National Visitation Network.
  • Volunteer to provide psychological testing and services at the Refugee Mental Health Resource Center and at Give An Hour.
  • Acquaint yourself with current research so that you will be able to provide quality services for people impacted by immigration policies.
  • Be sure to include research on immigration in courses and class discussions.

It is imperative that we give back our knowledge and expertise to individuals who currently are one of the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Amanda Sivoney Rodriguez, B.A. (she/her) is a graduate student in the counseling psychology program at Texas A&M International University. Amanda serves as a member of the student advisory committee for Division 17’s Section for the Advancement of Women.

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