Seneca Family of Agencies is helping immigrants separated from their families by ICE deal with mental trauma
Trump era policies have left over 3,000 families separated at the border, some for years.
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What if you were taken from your family out of nowhere and never had the option of seeing your mother, father, or children ever again?
For some people who immigrate to the United States in an effort to give a better life for their families, this instance has happened at the hands of the United States government.
Seneca Family of Agencies, a non-profit organization originally founded in 1985, offers services to help immigrants who have been ripped from their families learn how to deal with the severe mental trauma that goes hand-in-hand with their experiences.
Johanna Navarro-Perez, the program director of Seneca, spoke to AL DÍA about the families that the organization helps deal with separation anxiety and also helps contact family members that were detained or are now out of touch.
“We were expert witnesses in a lawsuit on behalf of three mothers from Central America who came to the United States and were separated from their children at the border, and we were able to receive money from the federal government” she explained one of the many cases the organization has aided with resolving.
Their work is funded largely through grants provided by the federal government.
“We know that over 3,000 families did not have the right contact information because they did not want the government to find them and deport them, meaning that they’ll never see their families,” she said.
It means the organization’s first goal is always to gain the trust of the immigrants scorned by the memories of losing their loved ones in forced separation.
“Our organization works on trying to find these families which also means that everything is confidential, we talk to them in the language that is appropriate for them,” Perez said.
Karina Acosta, an outreach coordinator, expressed how crucial it is to help families culturally readjust to the new life in the U.S. Seneca also plays a large role in getting the individuals adjusted, often sending them to other organizations that offer more catered services.
“In addition to the cultural differences, we want to make sure that they are able to provide services that comply with their language. We connect families to services that these families will benefit from for the long term, we help them find organizations that they want,” Costa said.
Before the pandemic occurred, organizers would physically try to inform families of their services, but since March 2020, it’s been difficult to find families who are looking for help.
Many aren’t privy to the new virtual reality, meaning email and phone numbers bring back mixed results. In response, Seneca has tried other means of contact.
“We also try to contact churches and panaderias,” Acosta said.
Both places also help to reconnect individuals with their cultures.
The services Seneca provides are national and they also help link families to other necessary skill workshops.
“We also try to help families deal with current stressors such as trying to help their children with online schooling and locate food banks for them. We also help immigrants set up e-mails, these skills are something that they will use long-term,” Acosta said.
Now that Joe Biden will be president, Seneca leaders said they are looking forward to seeing what the new administration will have to offer.
“We’re definitely hopeful, of course, we’re not fortune-tellers, but we are very interested in seeing what the Biden administration has in store,” Perez explained.
Immigration is one of the biggest issues Biden has to deal with when entering office. He is facing mounting pressure from grassroots organizations and is expected to produce swift change from Trump-era policies
Although Seneca Family of Agencies does receive grants through the federal government, they still need support in order to help more grieving families.
If you would like to support this agency, and the organizations they represent, feel free to show your support for Todo Por Mi Familia, one of the many smaller initiatives it backs.