An Immigration System in Need of Healing
Louis Appel, MD, FAAP
July 10, 2018
“Are all the passengers in the vehicle US citizens?” the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent asked through my window as I pulled to a stop at the checkpoint. My wife, our two teenage children, and I were driving east on Interstate-10 from Tornillo, Texas back to our home in Austin. We’d spent the morning in the far western corner of the state with about 100 physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, medical students, and other allies demanding an end to family separations and the detention of children.
My “yes” response to the agent’s question of citizenship was readily accepted. We were quickly on our way, though feeling somehow unnerved. My family is white. From the backseat, before I could bring it up, my children were already discussing how our experience at the checkpoint might easily have been different if the color of our skin had been different.
I was at the Texas-Mexico border again a few days later, this time in the Rio Grande Valley with a delegation of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) members and staff. Hosted and guided by local pediatrician and advocate Marsha Griffin, MD, FAAP, our group included AAP President Colleen Kraft, MD, FAAP; the academy’s Immigrant Health Special Interest Group Chair Julie Linton, MD, FAAP; AAP Interim CEO Mark Del Monte, JD, as well as UNICEF USA CEO Caryl Stern. It was about a week after the executive order ending family separations was issued, and we’d made the trip seeking a deeper understanding of how rapidly changing immigration directives are impacting the health of children.