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Position Statement: Families Seeking Safe Haven Should Not Be Separated

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Mother and child

 

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will begin forcibly separating families who are seeking safe haven in the US and who are taken into US immigration custody. As clinicians, we at Migrant Clinicians Network oppose the separation of children from their parents. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as separation from parents and detention are well documented to negatively affect health into adulthood. For many of the children who will be separated through this program, the trauma inflicted by separation will compound the trauma of a violent homeland and a dangerous migration. Additionally, DHS detention facilities for children after they are separated continue to not meet standards for care of children. 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 further infliction of trauma during processing and detention is unacceptably dangerous for family members’ health and well-being.

This policy is aimed at discouraging immigration, even by those seeking asylum in the United States. In doing so, it inflicts unnecessary and unacceptable harm on some of the most vulnerable. We urge the Department of Homeland Security to rescind this policy that will have 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 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in calling for a reevaluation of intake and handling of immigrant families by the Department of Homeland Security. AAP recommendations include: all immigrant families who are taken into US immigration custody must be treated with respect, provided timely, comprehensive, and trauma-informed health care services, and given updated information on their rights and current status; DHS should discontinue detention and instead use community-based alternatives; and, government-sponsored community-based case management should be implemented for families.

Read an analysis of current practice and the complete list of AAP recommendations related to the detention of children here, and their recent statement on the new DHS policy here.


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