This is the second post by Alice LoCiero on the recent virtual demonization of refugee children from Central America.
The media, without independently examining the situation, seems to have fallen into the trap of using the “secondly” linguistic trick when reporting on refugee children from Central America: Secondly, the children are here “illegally.” Secondly, they have violated laws. Secondly, they may be a burden on our system. Secondly, their care may cost us some money.
It is my hunch that these denigrated children represent, in some symbolic way, the damage the US government has done, and the effects of this damage on children. Their lives and tragedies are horrifying to the US because our government is, in essence, the perpetrator.
And the result is a horrifying combination of ignorance and hate, reflected in Americans’ call to send them back. There are cries that we must make our borders more secure. Secure against hungry and frightened children? But Americans have been fed a steady stream of news of the children, beginning with “Secondly.”
These messages are complicated by terrible ignorance of the conditions of the families and communities from which the children have fled, and the conditions of their trip here. Call the families and tell them we are sending them back? It is as if many Americans think the families sent their children to the US on an extended vacation—kind of like a semester abroad.
At the same time, the media has stopped reporting on the large number of Americans who have offered to help these children, and who would open their homes and communities to them. And the President refused to go to the border. No official has visited the shelters where these children are being kept. Why?
My hunch is that because as soon as Americans see these children, there will be an outcry against sending them back. I know that Americans are capable and very willing to help children. Strangers are, have been, and will continue to be, kind.
The media and the government have to get out of the way of ordinary Americans, and let them help these desperate children.
Dr. Alice LoCicero is a staff member at Boston Medical Center in the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology, an adjunct professor at Lesley University, and a volunteer psychologist at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her book, “Why Good Kids Turn into Deadly Terrorists: Deconstructing the Accused Boston Marathon Bombers and Others Like Them” will be released at the end of July.