Trauma and Immigration

Contemplative prayers for Reconciliation and Healing of Racism

March 2, 2018

Over the next few weeks we will be examining how trauma affects those living on the margins in our city. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a four part series that we will be referencing through excerpts and praying about each week at our Friday prayer services. To access this article:


We now take time to reflect on the children of immigrants here in Milwaukee. As you may know the United States came very close this week to stripping away Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for nearly 1.8 million Dreamers–young people who were brought into the United States by their parents as children. They were thankfully given a reprieve by the Supreme Court but still may face deportation unless Congress reaches a bipartisan deal to protect them.

“Foreign-born newcomers, who create urban economies that might be low in income but high in vibrancy and entrepreneurialism, can help buffer some of the most pernicious social side effects of cities caught in long-term global-age economic decline.

That’s critical for Milwaukee, where generations have grown up in high-poverty neighborhoods stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle of family trauma.

However, immigrants who have fled oppression, crime and civil war back home are hardly immune to distress and hardship. An entire field of trauma studies is devoted to economic and political migrants . . . it’s the generation that migrates that often takes the hardship on itself — motivated by the idea that the next generation will have a shot at a better life. Milwaukee’s Hispanic communities have their share of undocumented immigrants who lack residency visas, which can contribute to anxiety over the threat of deportation.

“I personally have not met a parent who doesn’t talk about self-sacrifice and wanting better for their children, providing them safety and education and opportunities they otherwise would not have in their home country,” says Lauren Heidbrink, an anthropology professor at California State University in Long Beach who studies the behavioral impact of global migrations. Immigrants in the United States are twice as likely to start businesses as their native-born peers, according to the Kauffman Foundation. It’s a dynamic many attribute to self-selection: Anyone willing to sacrifice family, language, culture and whatever safety net might exist back home, is predisposed to take risks, start businesses and hustle for low-rung labor.”

Migrations have been shaping cities and civilizations since the time of Exodus, when the slaves of Egypt sought a promised land. The threat of intergenerational trauma goes back just as far, in the view of trauma researchers. Exodus 20:5 refers to passing “the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation.” – Lessons from history: Despite crime and poverty, Clarke Square evinces an entrepreneurial spirit that’s high in vibrancy and dreams for the next generation, By John Schmid of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, published March 30, 2017

Our faith calls us to welcome those from other lands. It mandates that we protect children from trauma and their children’s children from intergenerational trauma. Imagine the effects of living in constant fear of deportation. Please forgive us for our indifference and our failure to truly welcome the stranger.

Prayer for Centering

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,

To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;

To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;

To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice;

To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;

To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one Most Holy Trinity in whom we make our prayer: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Invitation to Silence

The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonors the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.


Weekly Reflection Questions:

How does my faith call me to welcome those from other lands?

What can I DO to help Dreamers to remain in this country?

How does trauma effect our youth at home, school and work?

How can addressing trauma change the landscape of our community?



March 10, 2018, 5:15 PM – A Healing Mass for the City of Milwaukee, co-presided by Fr. Tim Kitzke, Vicar General for Urban Ministry and Fr. Mike Hammer, Archdiocesan AIDS Ministry

ACTION ALERT from Justice for Immigrants:

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