By: Sally Goza, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
“Immigrant children as young as one year old are currently being detained—sometimes for weeks at a time—by federal agents in hotels in Texas and Arizona, according to credible media reports. The American Academy of Pediatrics raises our voice in alarm against this dangerous, traumatizing practice.
“The reporting paints a harrowing picture of very young children being held for days and weeks at a time in hotel rooms in Texas and Arizona by federal immigration enforcement agents with no childcare experience. Hundreds of children have apparently been subjected to this treatment, despite a federal law that protects them, because the Administration is relying on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order that uses the pandemic as justification to turn unaccompanied children away at the border.
“Perhaps even more distressing is that the agency charged with the care and custody of unaccompanied children, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), currently has beds available in licensed facilities and offers medical care, including testing and isolation capacity, to accommodate COVID-19 protocols, as well as other critical supports for these children. The agency is operating at less than 10 percent capacity right now.
“It shouldn’t be this way. Federal law exists to protect unaccompanied children because they are especially at risk of trafficking and other threats. In violation of this law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the Administration is choosing to place children in hotel rooms with unlicensed, untrained adult law enforcement agents and their contractors when a safe alternative exists: referring these children to ORR. Instead, toddlers are trapped inside hotel rooms with government contractors, with no idea when they will see their parents again.
“This practice is traumatizing to children who have already endured so much, who are not old enough to have made their own decisions about how to arrive at our border, and who cannot communicate their fears and needs. To these children who seek safe haven in this country, I say this on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics: we see you, and we will not stop fighting for you.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 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 www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds