• April 17th, 2024
  • Wednesday, 05:09:26 AM

Children at the Border: Imprisoned in Permanent Cells

Ramón del Castillo, PhD


Border children should not be treated like animals — held as hostages in cages, nor should they be hunted down like prey, killed, stuffed and hung up on walls like trophies. The children who have been falsely imprisoned will carry the damage caused to them for years to come.  Literal imprisonment is one kind of punishment — it can come to a halt; figurative imprisonment has to do with psychological captivity where one cannot escape the images associated with the haunting and traumatic experience—this can be permanent.

Children are the innocents in a world that has become more barbaric and inhumane. They are human beings, our treasures in life, needing to be cared for by their families and communities. Children are defenseless and need to be protected, loved and provided with spiritual nurturance.  They are our future.

The real savages are those leaders who dare to mistreat them. Our so called leader Donald J. Trump should face international criminal charges for human rights violations and be punished for the actions his administration inflicted upon the vulnerable. His policies and orders from on top are the real culprits, designed to harm the frail. Those who are complicit with this aggression should also be punished. Their hostility, hate, and aggression towards fellow human beings are criminal acts.

I worked in the field of mental health and am familiar with the ensuing dynamics that may happen to children who have been yanked away from their loved ones, in this case placed in facsimile concentration camps, and mistreated.

Ripping very young children apart from their mothers and families, followed by incarceration at such young ages — left vulnerable to outside forces — interferes with their bonding processes. Bonding with another human being is an essential element in child growth and development.  Separation from parents causes internal anxiety and trauma, damaging positive ego development that can eventually lead to other challenges.  The emotions associated with confinement may be buried and suppressed, but will eventually surface as children continue their journeys through life. Children taken from their parents may lose the ability to trust anyone — since trust is such an important human characteristic that is fundamental to healthy human development, children may not be able to recover from this trauma. The internalization of loss will turn to grief, penetrating their mental and emotional states and without intervention may cause other long term maladies. Identity formation may be damaged — leading to a sense of personal identity crisis something that will continue to influence behavior and development for the rest of a person’s life. The authentic affection children received—the hugs, cuddles and the intimate conversations with parents that have become positive imprints on their psyches will be damaged as they seek refuge and comfort.

Essentially, families are the primary caregivers and the contexts in which young children begin to learn the lessons of life — which result in strong attachments to those who care for them. Maltreatment disrupts the formation and ongoing development of relationships that are designed to provide protection and nurturance for children. Incarceration is physical abuse. Physically abused children have a proclivity to display both withdrawal and aggression when stimulus in the environment is present—leading to interpersonal difficulties. There is never any guarantee that abandoned children will be placed in alternative settings and return to normalcy. As adults, victims of abuse have high rates of anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Research indicates that children who experience premature separation from loved ones can become high risk candidates for the emergence of behavioral, emotional and social problems later in life that may include long term depression, aggression, substance abuse, health problems and general unhappiness long after maltreatment has subsided. A horrific phenomenon occurs when children that do not receive the protection, care, nurturance and interactions that are typical of how humans care for their young—they die an internal death.

I encountered many dysfunctional teenagers while working in the mental health field that were never given opportunities to bond with their mothers, placed in alternative settings, abandoned forever. They become angry and isolated transforming their anger into rage—cannon fodder for what western psychiatrists call personality disorders—and candidates for the large military industrial complex that gladly accepts sociopaths. In the final analysis, without proper intervention, they will become the next generation of children incapable of loving anyone. As unwanted refugees of the future, they may wander aimlessly in América’s concrete jungles, filling jailhouses and prisons.

I recollect providing guidance to a Viet Nam Veteran who had seen massacres of Vietnamese children during his tour in Viet Nam. His trauma began when he was unable to protect those young harmless and blameless children who had become victims of war. This young man suffered from a combination of guilt (culpable) and shame (vergüenza) because he had been culturally socialized to protect his brothers, sisters and families from harm. Watching these young people die, coupled with feeling helpless, left permanent scars in his heart and soul. His remedies were volunteering time at the local youth programs — luckily, he had not lost his ability to be empathetic; he had not yet become immune to violence. I doubt that Trump and Company will experience any remorse for their actions. They will also be imprisoned in permanent cells. They are the sociopaths with power. Who is going to provide intervention for them?



Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. ©12-2-2019 Ramón Del Castillo


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