In general, I stick to light topics here but now and again I feel called to speak out about particular things. The thoughts that have taken up space in my mind lately are directly related to physical health and well-being and as such, I’ve decided that it’s an appropriate topic for this blog.
As some of you know, my mother was a scientist, a chemist by training and she worked in the Infectious Diseases Department at the University of San Francisco Medical center. Growing up I was often privy to conversations between her and her colleagues about disease migration and listened to discussions surrounding the in and outs of things such as the Bubonic Plague, Trachoma, influenza and AIDS. My mother was one of the first to work with other scientists who were trying to uncover what was causing the illness and death of so many young men in San Francisco in the late 70’s/80’s (HIV/AIDS).
I’m not a scientist, My doctorate is in Education. I’ve spent my professional life working in schools with young children (and now with college age students). I served as the Director of a private, non-profit school for 15 years. I have devoted much to my time and energy to keeping children happy and most importantly, safe. Perhaps its a mix of my exposure to matters of infectious disease at an early age and my work with children all of these years but I have some rather pointed thoughts to share.
We currently have an influx of both adults and children (a huge number of them are 14-17 year old males who are not considered children in their countries of origin but are considered children under American law) from Central America (and other places too) flooding across our southern border. There are differing opinions of why this is happening but the fact is that it IS happening (yes…men, women and children have been coming across regularly for many years but there is an enormous spike in numbers currently). The facilities available for caring for them on the border are inadequate and therefore the Feds are moving them into the interior of the US…via bus, van and even flying them around on airplanes.
I have my own feelings about this whole issue and the absurd (and tragic) circus surrounding transporting minors and family groups around this country without background information on them or on a significant number of the people they’re being placed with once here. I will spare you further comment on that subject, however you do need to know that while there is an attempt on the part of government agencies to screen and vaccinate the people who’ve crossed the border before they are transported there are certainly some slipping through the cracks.. There are cases of serious infectious diseases being carried….drug resistant TB is only one of them. Since many of the school aged children have been (and will continue to be) taken to the interior of the U.S. and many are never detained in the first place, my admonition to you is to be aware of what’s happening in your local community and schools. If there are new, shiny faces in class when school starts don’t be afraid to ask questions or insist your administrators be sure immunization records are in order for all students. Make them answer direct questions regarding the immunization status of the new arrivals. Don’t just assume it’s taken care of. You have a right to know. You have a responsibility to protect your children and those who already live in your community.
We all love children. We all want to see them thrive. I don’t blame the Central American children being dispersed in this country for any of this. I am extremely sympathetic to their plight but I refuse to let my compassion and love for children be used as a weapon against me, my children or the children in my community. My first responsibility is to protect my own children. My primary loyalty is to the children already here who will be sitting side by side with the recently arrived children in classrooms all over this country. I’m not afraid to be a voice for them even though I know there is a strong possibility of being labeled all kinds of nasty things….xenophobic, anti-immigrant, mean, anti-child, lacking in compassion, hateful, ignorant, hard-hearted, a fear monger, anti-Christian, racist, hispanophobic and all the rest.
All kids depend on adults to protect and care for them. My heart is heavy for the Central American children who were sent by adults, charged with their welfare, on long, treacherous journeys into a foreign land. I hate that the adults in their countries can’t provide them a safe, healthy environment. I’m sorry for the conditions that pushed (and pulled) them into the country. It’s not a pretty story any way you look at it. A good number of children died, many were abused and many more psychologically damaged by the ordeal. It’s a horror for any reasonable adult to contemplate. This does not mean, however, we should just shut our mouths and not insist that the children already here in our schools be protected. It’s our responsibility as adults not to further extend the wreckage of this crush of people crossing into the country on our southern border.
*The intent of this is not to alarm you, It’s to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on so that you can make informed decisions. The chances of these children passing infectious diseases isn’t at an extreme level but it absolutely DOES exist. There are actually more worrying people crossing the border (from countries currently stricken by the Ebola virus and people from groups who are ideologically opposed to the American way of life and who bear us ill will)….but that’s for a different conversation.
Until next time…keep going and stay strong!