MIDLAND, Texas — Over 18,000 migrant children are in U.S. custody. Those figures come from federal data, but how they got here and what they have been through on their journey is anyone’s guess.
Most of their physical needs have been met with food, new clothing, and now clean water. Now, the focus shifts to something else-their mental health.
Local counselors think many of the migrants have suffered from severe trauma.
“The developmental trauma of traveling to a new place, being discombobulated, disoriented and not speaking the language," Cheryl Willoughby, a therapist at Affinity Counseling Center, said. "They need help.”
The Red Cross has been working closely with the migrants at the Midland facility.
The organization reached out to various counseling centers in the Basin, including Affinity, to recruit bilingual therapists to work with the children.
“Nobody walks that far without that much trauma, nobody comes that far of a journey without being scared," Willoughby said. "So the first thing we do is help them find safety and trust, finding one person who you can look in their eyes and know that you can trust is such a big deal.”
Willoughby says multiple full-time therapists in the area have already applied for the position.
She anticipates the actions, or lack thereof, that the U.S. takes now with these migrant children will be felt for generations.
“Not only do they work through the trauma the rest of their lives, but this impacts generations," Willoughby said. "We will have individuals here that are the grandchild or the child of an immigrant and that trauma can be felt through generations.”
But what exactly is the cost of helping these migrants?
“Yes--there is a cost with all of these things," Willoughby said. "But there’s also, a cost of these things if trauma that is not dealt with that impacts the community.”
Willoughby explains helping these migrant children is essential if the country wants to avoid more crime and poverty in the future when these migrant children are adults.
We reached out to the Red Cross about the status of hiring bilingual therapists. They tell us they can not comment on the situation.
But they did tell us the federal government relieved them of their duties Sunday morning, meaning they are no longer helping at the facility. Now everything is being handled strictly by HHS and the federal government.