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Crossing Paths: Living at the Intersections Immigrant Children Traveling Across Borders

Poem #1 July 14th, 2014
As I prepare myself to meet the eyes of young women traveling across borders, rivers and mountains I wonder who will I meet? Will empty eyes meet mine the color of desert sand, will tough skin shake my hand dehydrated flowers, will once fertile wombs be graveyards for butterflies? Will they greet me in the language of spirits or the voice of death mourning the pieces of themselves that they left under rocks and trees they fell asleep on. Like early morning dawn I will greet them, restoring breathe, recreating life, stitching with the rising sun courage in tongues and power in bones, sewing music into the rhythm of her body creating flower arrangements in prayer of eyes stolen and celebration of rainbows moving carrying her spirit in rain… I will listen to her song!

Poem #2 July 19th, 2014
I find myself standing at the intersections
At the cross roads of my heart and mind
Their eyes meet mine
and I search to see myself in them
but the light coming from their heart is too strong
Resiliency, courage, strength and beauty meet me
and invite me to play and laugh on their land
they dare me to think about who I am on this earth
what do I stand for
and who do I want to be
for them on this journey
They prompt me to question my very existence
my own humanity
Their eyes meet mine
and I cant promise nothing but the moment
This is just another assignment on my own journey
a spiritual interaction on this human earth
Angels crossing paths without borders

Today, I breathed and released, let go, gave up and breathed some more, inhaling into my heart trying to understand with out judgment what it is that I am being called to do in this moment, in this lifetime, with these young people and children, in this particular part of their journey.

As I rap my head around what I am witnessing I realized that the work being done with the children crossing the borders is so out of context of these children lives and where these children are coming from politically. And of course because they have crossed over into the United States the institutions treating and serving them are using US based, mainstream models of psychotherapy, mental health, social work, psychology and education for a group of beautiful indigenous children who speak in their native tongue and are in tribes and cultures native to their lands. Do these models do more harm than good? The answer has always been yes, whether in conversation of immigrants or migrants and native people to this own land and people of color in general in the US.

Any US mainstream model in any field, sexual assault, reproductive health, prison industrial complex and now immigrant unaccompanied minors that is used to facilitate an understanding of the oppression of people of color and its impact automatically stereotypes, diagnoses, discriminates, creates prejudice and therefore violence against the very people it claims to have its best interest in mind, leaving them vulnerable to imposed evaluations and diagnosis that have no relevance to what they may be going through, who they are and what they want to do in the next phase of their lives.

What we may consider trauma here maybe a normal state of being for them. Where educational systems do not exist in “normal educational institutions”, education in tribes looks very different. They pass down stories, do rituals and connect to the earth. What we consider child labor, for other countries everyone in the family being workers for the land connected to the earth is part of their culture and their education is the crops they farm. If they don’t look at you, they are not traumatized, in their culture that might not be acceptable. If they are not speaking they do not have a speech problem they don’t understand your Spanish or English cause they talk but only in their native tongue and not our imposed language. Yes, they are 12, 13 and 14 and don’t “look” their age but by whose standards? Many don’t have food or when they do eat, they do not eat over processed, hormone/pesticide infested food that has been cloned with no nutrients. Not all of them are in gangs, stop listening to the news, its creating a generalization of these children, where they came from and why? This is not a one size fits all situation.

Check your privilege at the door. This is not a power struggle between you and academia where you want to show off your clinical degree or master of diagnosis. These are real people and the disservice that we do when we create yet another invisible stop on their journey where they are dehumanized and not seen, is more devastating than the journey they have already gone through.

Please , Please Please, seek out support and training! If you are an advocate, service provider, teacher, youth worker, supervisor, clinician, volunteer or any other body doing direct services or on the front lines of working with immigrant children crossing the borders. CHECK, CHECK, CHECK yourself! Take a cultural awareness and cultural humility training. Do your own research about this population, look for alternative news to inform yourself about what is not being said, look for another side, another way to think and be. Commit and take responsibility for being open to learning and giving up what you think you already know, for deep personal transformation and healing for yourself and the child, for critically thinking and creating a mind that has no borders.

Self Healing Tips: Take care of yourself in the process.
1. Thank yourself everyday for being on the front lines of this work.
2. Choose to not take the story home instead take a mental picture of the smile in their eyes.
3. Create a group of people who will support you in debriefing your days, crying and releasing, healing and understanding why you.
4. Write, write, down your rage, your sadness, your excitement, your thoughts, whats coming up for you.
5. Celebrate, Affirm and forgive yourself and your family. Hug them tight and go to bed saying I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me and thank you!

From direct service to community organizing?: Questions to think about.

1. Make a map of the journey? From what country to what other country, to the border?
2. Walking, bus, train, crossing rivers, deserts and mountains? How did they get here?
3. What languages do they speak? Become knowledgeable
4. What tribes and cultures may they be coming from? What is their way of life?
6. What is the social, political and economic climate of their countries?
7. What is their education?
8. What is their work?
9. What are the issues that they may be facing in their countries outside of what the news is saying? Health, drugs?, disease(if any?), violence against women, role of men, lgbt? etc
10. What resiliency are they already coming with?

Take care of you,
Dayanara Marte

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