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Editor’s Letter – 6/20/18

A Snopes article appeared on my Facebook feed last week. I affectionately think of Snopes as the site we used in the early aughts to debunk urban legends—like the one about the babysitter who discovered the clown statue in the house was really the schizophrenic dwarf neighbor there to kill them all! But in this era, I’ve come to appreciate Snopes as another fact-checking entity. The more fact-checkers, the merrier.

This recent article wasn’t an urban legend—but it was horrifying: Are More Than 10,000 Children in U.S. Detention Centers?

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that 10,773 unaccompanied immigrant children were indeed in detention facilities as of May 2018.

Snopes confirmed that number—which is over half of the BOK Center’s capacity (19,199), and nearly 3,000 more than ONEOK Field’s (7,833)—was true, though the government hasn’t disclosed how many of those children were separated from their parents.

Soon after, I saw more about these children—including the heartbreaking, now-famous photo of the two-year-old girl crying as her mother is being taken away by border patrol—and a poignant post from a local social worker friend of mine. She visits the homes of immigrant families and their zero- to three-year-old children. 

“We know that the most rapid brain growth happens within the first five years of life,” she wrote. “And the development of secure attachment to caregivers and healthy coping skills starts early … I am deeply saddened as I leave home visits with families to think of my students being separated from their parents and the implications that would have.”

She linked to this statement from Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer at Zero to Three, an organization dedicated to ensuring babies and toddlers have a strong start in life:

Migrating to a new country is already stressful. Separating children and caregivers destroys the relationships that foster resilience. Make no mistake; separation at this point is a trauma that can have long-term impacts on an infant’s well-being. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders can follow.

The practice of having border agents remove children from caregivers suddenly and place them in institutional care, especially without any policy for visitation, maintenance of their attachment relationship, or reunification, amounts to child maltreatment.

Anyone with infant/early childhood mental health expertise—and anyone with a heart for children—will tell you that separating young children from caregivers at the U.S. border is appalling and must be stopped.

Of course, they’re not all so young—but they’re children, regardless.

If you want to know what you can do, first and foremost, call your representatives. Slate magazine has a continually-updated resource online: “Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border.” Also, follow the local organization New Sanctuary Network Tulsa on Facebook, and join them Sat., June 30, from 10–11 a.m. at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center (300 N. Denver Ave.) to protest family separation at the border. (Why there? Because the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is a collaborative partner with ICE through a program called 287(g), which means David L. Moss doubles as an ICE detainment center.)

This letter has nothing to do with this issue, which is mostly lighthearted and celebrates Tulsa’s culture, which we are fortunate to enjoy freely and easily. Today I’m thinking of others who deserve the same opportunities.

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