By: Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
"Today's executive action seeks to end this Administration’s harmful policy of forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S. southern border. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with ending this abhorrent practice, which drew widespread outcry among pediatricians, advocates, and the American public. Families should remain together.
Sadly, however, continuing to maintain the "zero tolerance" policy will put more children in detention facilities, an environment the AAP states is no place for a child, even if they are accompanied by their families. The order also fails to address the more than 2,300 children who have already been cruelly separated from their parents.
“In 2017, the AAP published a policy statement that immigrant children seeking safe haven in the United States should never be placed in detention facilities. Studies of detained immigrants have shown that children and parents may suffer negative physical and emotional symptoms from detention, including anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Conditions in U.S. detention facilities, which include forcing children to sleep on cement floors, open toilets, constant light exposure, insufficient food and water, no bathing facilities, and extremely cold temperatures, are traumatizing for children. No child should ever have to endure these conditions.
“Family detention is not the solution to address the forced separation of children and parents at the U.S. southern border. We urge our government to stop exposing children to conditions or settings that may retraumatize them, such as those that exist in immigration detention. Alternatives to detention exist. Children and families should have access to legal counsel throughout the immigration pathway and community-based case management can increase the likelihood of compliance with government requirements. As pediatricians, we know children fare best in community settings, under the direct care of parents who love them.
“We must remember that children do not immigrate, they flee. Parents will continue to flee violence to protect their children and themselves and seek safe haven in our country. The Academy’s mission is to protect the health and well-being of all children – no matter where they or their parents were born – and we hold our federal leaders to that same standard. These vulnerable families deserve our compassion and assistance.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 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. For more information, visit aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds.