Psychological impact of separation on migrant children
Social workers, and other mental health professionals are trained extensively to understand the profound effects long-term exposure to trauma has on children. It’s clear to me that the migrant children who endure the long journey of immigrating to the United States from their home countries, and upon arrival are violently forced to separate from their parents; particularly mothers, will experience deep feelings of terror and helplessness.
Additionally, the trauma they are exposed to is incredibly overwhelming to the small bodies of these immigrant children that have various repercussions.
When the body of a young child is stressed for prolonged periods of time, the body is flooded with the stress hormone, cortisol causing the body to slow – or even stop – both the brain and physical development of the child. As a result, this can cause long term damage to the developing brain and negatively affect the immune system resulting in a sickly and weak child both in mind and body. I would also argue – spirit.
A message to US Muslims
Our beautiful Islamic tradition is full of stories that inspire good values. In Bukhari’s Al-Adhab Al-Mufrad there is a chapter titled: Taking an Egg from a Small Bird.
In this hadith, as narrated by ‘Abdullah (RA) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and others were on a long journey in the desert. The Prophet (PBUH) made a stop along the way. While stopped, a man accompanying them on the trip saw bird eggs in a nest and decided to take them for himself.
The mother bird saw this and began to beat her wings frantically and began to fly around in circles above the head of the Prophet (PBUH) to get his attention as if to say; “Help me oh messenger of Allah, someone is taking my babies from me!”
The Prophet walked back to those traveling with him and he asked, “Which of you has taken this mother-bird’s eggs?” A man said, “Messenger of Allah, I have taken its eggs.” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Return them out of mercy to the mother bird.”
Brothers and Sisters in Islam, pause for a moment and reflect on this lesson from our beautiful seerah. On the profound and deep wisdom of rights that Allah has bestowed upon a mother over her child. If this is the case for the small creation of Allah, a mere bird, what then is the case for the best of His creation- mankind?
The distress that these mothers feel from being ripped away from their children is abhorrent. As Muslims, we are encouraged to speak up and speak against the injustices that we see in our society, those big and small.
These migrant mothers from Latin-America are similar to the bird in the hadith who are beating their wings hoping that someone will listen to their cries. No matter what our personal opinion on immigration may be; whether we agree or disagree with America’s stance on immigration policy; it is our responsibility as Muslims to uphold goodness and a moral standard in our respective societies.
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