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For Separated Undocumented Immigrants, The Trauma Doesn’t End After Being Reunited

This woman suffered generational trauma from family separation, so she went to the border to help children who were detained.

All photos courtesy of Araceli Cruz.

What motivates you to help someone? Is it a feeling of guilt, sadness? A combination of both?


For Charlotte and Dave Willner, who saw a photo of a crying little girl standing between border agents and her mother, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, the feeling was empathy.

“When we look at the faces of these children, we can’t help but see our own children’s faces,” Charlotte told The Mercury News. Rather than succumbing to the helplessness they felt, they got proactive. On June 16, they launched what has become Facebook’s highest-grossing fundraiser for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

Although RAICES isn’t the only organization working to reunite the thousands of children that were separated at the U.S./Mexico border under our government’s — now-defunct — “zero-tolerance policy,” they are by far the most recognized and well-funded.

The world was left aghast over the situation at our border, and photo after photo of what these children are going through has provoked a vast national outcry. Celebrities and politicians have shown up at child detention centers or called out the Trump administration on social media. Others have donated a surplus of items such as diapers, soap, and toys — anything to show these families kindness and bring awareness to the harrowing atrocities that our government has caused.

For Alicia Cruz, my sister, the matter of immigration is a bit more personal. She too was left in tears after seeing the pictures of the children in Texas, and just like the Willners, she also felt helpless. But Alicia, a mental health worker in San Francisco, understands what these undocumented kids are facing and what they will endure for the rest of their lives.

“[This separation] is now imprinted on their body,” Alicia says. “It’s in their system. It’s going to be passed on.”

This is known as transgenerational trauma — trauma that is transferred from one generation of survivors to the next and further generations of their offspring. People with transgenerational trauma include those who have endured the things like the aftermath of slavery, the Holocaust, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City. It also can affect those that have faced injustices.

As descendants of immigrants who were wronged by the U.S. government, my family and I suffer from transgenerational trauma dating back the Mexican Repatriation of the late 1920s and ‘30s, when my great-grandmother was illegally deported.

In the ‘60s, my parents came to the U.S. looking for work. Although they entered legally, their struggle was similar to that of the thousands now trying to immigrate here in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Unfortunately, my parents had to leave my three eldest siblings behind in Mexico for about a year while they situated themselves in the U.S. My mother, who was 8 months pregnant with my older sister Alicia, had no idea what her rights were at the time.

My siblings were very young during this period, but the aftereffects of that separation are still present in our family today as anxiety, resentment, and other mental health issues.

Alicia knows full well that just because these children are being reunited doesn’t mean their trauma is over. In fact, it’s just beginning.

She says it wasn’t just her willingness to help that motivated her to help these families, but a spirit much stronger: “Our ancestors were saying, ‘You are gonna go.’”

And go she did, but not before contacting about 50 organizations trying to find out how to help the separated families. RAICES was the only one that returned her calls. While the organization has several volunteer legal aids, they didn’t have mental health specialists. Alicia went to fill that void. She launched her own fundraiser and raised enough money for her and two other women — including my eldest sister — to travel to San Antonio and help.

Geovanie Ordoñez, RAICES volunteer coordinator, says that more than 200 volunteers have helped the organization throughout Texas, including dozens of individuals volunteering remotely from across the nation.

Part of Alicia’s duties included providing Spanish-language translation between families and the lawyers, as well as training.

“I offered RAICES staff a training on how they can help parents and children in this process using a mental health lens,” Alicia says. “For example, I gave them easy tips on how to assist a parent that might become overwhelmed when retelling their story. I also provided psychology education regarding the impact of family separation on both child and parent as well as [the] impact of retelling acute trauma at this early stage.”

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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