It’s Every Child | 30 Days, 30 Clinicians
[Editor’s Note: Happy Birthday, Migrant Clinicians Network! To celebrate our 30th anniversary this month, we are highlighting one clinician each day who has been honored in 30 Clinicians Making a Difference, in which we profile the work of 30 diverse migrant clinicians from across the country and abroad.]
One month ago, the New Yorker aimed its bright light on kidnappings of immigrant children at the US/Mexico border. The fourteen-page article centered around Rio Grande City, where undocumented migrants have become lucrative targets of kidnapping. One hundred miles further down the Rio Grande, past McAllen and almost to the southernmost tip of Texas where it meets the Gulf of Mexico lies Brownsville, where Marsha Griffin, MD, one of our 30 Clinicians Making a Difference, has made it her life’s mission to help physicians reconnect with the purpose in their work, while addressing health disparities for children along the border. The Rio Grande Valley is impoverished and its residents -- and the thousands of migrants who pass through each year -- are medically underserved. The article dives into many of the complex pushes and pulls that an immigrant feels, that would impel a person to make the treacherous and dangerous trip through the desert to reach this impoverished corner of the US: violence in their home country, families split between countries, no opportunities for work or education in their home towns. But why risk it all -- why risk kidnapping; why risk your 911 call being answered by Border Control; why risk dehydration, heat stress, getting lost; why risk getting caught and being sent back?
“The immigrants crossing our Southern Border are exposed to unimaginable risks. And for the most part, they suffer in silence. Kidnappings and rapes, extortion and torture are common,” Dr. Griffin said this week, in response to the article. “If they are desperate enough to expose themselves to these dangers, imagine what they must be fleeing.
In the New Yorker article, two young boys endure a long journey to the border from Guatemala, a dangerous border crossing, a kidnapping, and a tense several days waiting to be rescued. But, as the article notes, “the next phase of their journey, in the hands of the government, turned out to be the most grueling.”
Dr. Griffin is working to change that. With many others, she is active in securing better facilities for women and children who are detained, and has called on President Obama to close the detention centers holding women and children.
The detention centers are facing higher scrutiny in the wake of last year’s massive influx of children at the border, which resulted in overcrowded facilities and the use of short-term processing facilities for longer-term holding of immigrants.
Learn more about Dr. Griffin’s Community for Children and the programs it offers to medical students, residents, and the public, on their website.
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