It feels quite impossible and shortsighted to begin talking about prevention from a counseling perspective without first acknowledging that there is a much larger picture that belongs in the hands of the governments involved both in the countries of origin of the immigrants crossing the border, especially when they are minors, as with the host country- the USA. The need for policies that support prevention of the separation of the family, as well as protection and alternatives for minors and families in environments plagued by violence, poverty and resulting family breakdown calls for a united effort that involves all sides of the equation. This also includes international organizations responsible for creating and overseeing policies and programs affecting refugees and immigrants and providing protection against human trafficking; moreover, religious organizations and the generous contributions by the private sector that can support child welfare agencies and shelters for women and children in the countries where these are insufficient or non- existent. The availability of legal counsel and adequate screening of minors in the immigration detention centers in order to prevent errors in due process that end up sending minors back into dangerous situations and preventing family reunification, as reported in the March 6, 20015 issue of the Los Angeles Times. Programs that can extend services to the adults and children who have been deported back into their countries and separated again from their families, or an expansion of existing efforts in that front, etc. etc. In a previous post in this blog, a statement was made underscoring the importance for people working with this population to examine the Report of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (November 2013). This report makes these elements very clear and eloquently stated, coming up with many important suggestions. Furthermore, it adds information about some programs that are having positive outcomes in preventing minors from starting the dangerous journey to the north, as for example in one of this countries: Guatemala and, which are worth replicating in other countries and regions.
Thus, advocacy in all of these fronts is so needed for improvements to happen in terms of prevention. However, there are also some wonderful things happening and a lot of it has to do with change in the level of awareness on the media and the general population regarding the suffering of the immigrant families, as joyfully noticed by someone like me who has been involved with immigrants for many years. And, surprisingly perhaps for some, when one goes back in history, say the late 1800’s and beginning 1900’s and takes a look at the immigrants that built this country’s cities with blood, sweat and tears, under subhuman conditions of exploitation and discrimination, such as presented in the documentary The Italian Americans, (PBS), one can see that immigrants have never been dealt a very kind compassionate hand and the improvement of conditions came only after a lot of fighting for their rights. And this is probably true worldwide in many other countries.