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Immigration and Trauma

Claudia Avila-Lopez, Licensed Master Social Worker, coordinates Insight Counseling Centers’ services in Spanish. Most of the clients in her caseload have immigrated to the U.S. from Spanish-speaking countries.

“I try to keep spots open for clients who do not speak English and are in crisis situations,” she says. Claudia describes the trauma she sees from these clients’ experiences in their countries of origin – childhood abuse, gang-related violence, war, and even torture. Unfortunately, these problems don’t disappear once they’ve crossed borders.

Anti-immigration rhetoric and actions have real consequences.

“My clients are getting re-traumatized. There is a lot of fear. People have cancelled counseling appointments with me because they don’t want to drive out on the road. They’re interrupting their therapy and not getting the help they need for safety reasons. They feel very unsafe because of the anti-immigrant sentiments.”

Effects of trauma and stress are amplified in children, causing far-reaching, long-term mental and physical health concerns. Children of immigrants face increased vulnerability during separation from their parents, fear and anxiety around the constant threat of deportation, and as the result of our current political climate, taunts and social ostracism from some of their peers.

This is about having compassion for people.
“People feel differently about issues around immigration. My job as a counselor is to be present and listen to my clients’ concerns, to help them make a safety plan for their family so that if something happens to them, their kids (who were born here) don’t end up in the system. At the same time, we’re working through their trauma.”

“As therapists, we’re not here to decide if it’s right or wrong, we’re here to provide a safe space for people to heal from past and present trauma. We’re here to help our clients feel compassion and be empowered to overcome this season of life, just like they have overcome so much by coming here to an unknown country, leaving behind family and everything that is familiar.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

This is about helping the vulnerable.

Insight Counseling Centers offers financial assistance on an income-based scale for those in our community who cannot otherwise afford quality counseling services. We are able to offer this assistance because of donations from foundations, congregations, and individuals. To sponsor counseling services for a client in need, please make a donation online with the designation “Spanish Services.”

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