Bioethics Blogs

Considering the psychological needs of immigrants



By: Charles M. Olbert

On September 16, the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education and Center for Religion and Culture hosted a conference to discuss whether we have a moral obligation to immigrants. Entitled “A Crisis of Conscience: What Do We Owe Immigrant Youth and Families?” the conference featured former U.S. Senator and 50th Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, former immigration judge Sarah Burr, and Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. David Ushery, journalist and host of NBC’s “The Debrief” moderated the event.

Ken Salazar characterized the present moment in United States history as one of many “times of shame” on the basis of how we as a country treat immigrants—especially so-called “undocumented alien children” (UACs). He described how 12 million people are “living in the shadows of society” and stated that immigration reform represents a “national moral imperative” and the “number one civil rights and humanitarian issue” of our time, albeit an issue that has been difficult to comprehensively and satisfactorily address at the national level.

Analogously, psychology has had its own times of shame: the discipline has historical connections to eugenics and racism (Guthrie, 2008), militarism (Miller, 2005), and, more recently, torture (Soldz, 2008), that are perhaps not as well-publicized as one might prefer. Fortunately, initiatives over the interceding decades have brought the discipline—at least at the level of its professional Ethics Code (American Psychological Association [APA], 2002)—into line with values that might begin to remediate these historical shames.

The Ethics Code combines aspirational General Principles with specific, binding Standards to ensure the welfare and protection of individuals that psychologists serve.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.