Children of New Bedford immigrant raids are victims of terrorism, testifies Dr. Laria today
April 7, 2008–Boston (West Roxbury), MA—“If we define ‘terrorism’ as systematic premeditated acts of violence that provoke feelings of terror in targeted victims, there’s no better term to describe these events,” said Dr. Amaro Laria of the violent undocumented immigrant raid of a factory in New Bedford last year to the National Commission on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights today at the state house. The Commission is examining ramifications of such raids on families, communities and local economies.
A clinical psychologist and director of the Latino Mental Health Program at Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Laria led a group of mental health volunteers in the aftermath of the raids that separated hundreds of mothers and their children. He spoke of the children devastated by the raid, such as a seven-year-old who displayed symptoms typical of a post-traumatic stress disorder--severe anxiety, guardedness, hypervigilance, and irritability. “Her father,” testified Laria, “reported that she was losing weight and that she was having severe insomnia and violent nightmares every night since she was separated from her mother.”
He went on describe other faces of New Bedford that still haunt him. A child who contemplated suicide, another who called 911 when her mom didn’t come home that day, a breast-fed baby rushed to an emergency room with severe dehydration and “...the young teenager who was arrested at the factory and then psychologically tortured because she refused to provide information about her mother and siblings in order to protect them,” he said.
He also described the humiliation of detained women required to prove to guards that they were lactating, who were watched as they went to the bathroom, and who found themselves in shackles in the courtroom.
“As a mental health professional, as a father of two young children, as an immigrant myself, and as a human being with some compassion for the suffering of others, it is extremely difficult for me to make any sense of these premeditated, officially endorsed inhumane acts in the name of justice,” he went on.
“Regardless of how we feel about US immigration policy, as a society, we hold dear the health and well-being of our children—of all of our children. No child in America should be kept up at night worrying that her parents may be ‘taken away.’ No child should leave for school not knowing if his parents will be home when he returns,” he said to the commissioners today.
“As parents, a child’s terror is our own terror.”