“The mission of the American Academy of Pediatrics is to protect the health and well-being of all children, and pediatricians have held Congress to this same standard throughout the immigration reform debate. Ensuring that all children—no matter where they or their parents were born—have access to health care coverage is a top priority for pediatricians. The immigration bill passed today by the U.S. Senate, while an historic achievement, misses this opportunity.
“Children of immigrant families, regardless of their own immigrant status, face many challenges to their health and well-being, including poverty, lack of health insurance, low educational attainment and language barriers. The Senate bill offers solutions to address some egregious immigration enforcement activities involving children and their families; specifically, the bill gives parents who are detained the ability to arrange for care of their children and to ensure their children are not automatically placed in the child welfare system, and protects against enforcement actions taking place at sensitive locations like schools and doctors’ offices. However, the bill also includes troubling barriers to immigrant families’ ability to access health care services.
“Under the bill, many children who are aspiring citizens will spend their entire childhood—up to 15 years in some cases—without access to health care coverage. That means no access to health coverage for preventive check-ups, immunizations, and treatments for conditions like asthma, autism, and hearing impairments. Timely coverage can mean the difference between preventing or treating conditions that can affect a child’s long-term prospects for a healthy, productive life, and leaving those conditions undetected and untreated. Health care access for immigrant children is especially critical due to the unique vulnerabilities immigrant families face compared to non-immigrant families, including mental health problems and high levels of stress, depression and exposure to traumatic events.
“Immigrant children are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population; one in every four children lives in an immigrant family. These are the future adults of America and the future backbone of our nation’s economy. As the immigration debate continues, pediatricians have one resounding message for Congress: put children first.”
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)