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Position Statement: Families Seeking Safe Haven Should Not Be Separated

Mother and child


As health care providers, we at Migrant Clinicians Network strongly oppose immigration policy that separates children from their parents. The lifelong health impacts of such trauma administered by the US government are significant and unacceptable. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as separation from parents and time spent in detention are well documented to negatively affect health into adulthood.

For many of the children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the border, the trauma inflicted by separation will compound the trauma of a violent homeland and a dangerous migration. Many of the families who will be affected by this policy are fleeing from violent situations that they believe they would be unable to survive, and/or deep poverty. Such prolonged exposure to toxic stress and trauma during processing and detention is unacceptably dangerous for family members’ health and well-being.

Additionally, DHS detention facilities for children after they are separated continue to not meet standards for care of children. Facilities in which very young children are held without a responsible and familiar family member, with insufficient human contact, are inhumane. The conditions that we are seeing, in which children lack a place to play and many lack basic bedding, sleeping behind chain-link fences, will only continue and worsen as available facilities reach capacity.

We urge the Department of Homeland Security to rescind this policy that will inflict serious and long-lasting health impacts, and move quickly toward assuring humane, community-based, informed, and respectful treatment of families seeking safe haven. We stand with fellow organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics in calling for a reevaluation of intake and handling of immigrant families by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We also strongly urge the DHS to provide respectful, prompt, culturally competent and trauma-informed health care services. Those detained must also be given updated information on their rights and current status. We also encourage DHS to provide government-sponsored community-based case management.

Updated 6/18/2018

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