Thursday, June 21, 2018

APA Urges Members to Maintain Pressure on Administration Regarding Child Detentions

In an about-face, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order yesterday halting his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents who illegally cross the U.S. southern border. But Trump’s decision to continue his “zero tolerance” policy of border crossing will still place families into prison-like detention centers, perhaps long term.

It remains unclear what will happen to the more than 2,300 migrant children who have been separated from their parents since mid-May. Images of young children confined in steel cages and sleeping en masse on thin pads on concrete floors with aluminum-foil-like blankets sparked condemnation around the world, including from Pope Francis and all four living former first ladies.

APA led a coalition of mental health organizations in lobbying the administration to immediately halt its cruel policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border. “Children are dependent on their parents for safety and support. Any forced separation is highly stressful for children and can cause lifelong trauma, as well as an increased risk of other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder,” wrote APA and 17 mental health organizations, including the American Association of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychoanalytic Association, in a letter sent yesterday to the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

“This is not an acceptable policy to counter unlawful immigration, and the administration must immediately rescind this course of action,” the letter continued. “We support practical, humane immigration policies that take into account what we know about the harmful, long-term psychological effects of separation on children and their families.”

The government, under a federal court order known as the Flores settlement, is prohibited from keeping migrant children in detention for more than 20 days. But Trump’s Executive Order instructs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file a request to modify Flores so it can detain families long term while adjudicating the criminal proceedings of the parents for improper entry. When combined with asylum claim evaluations, such proceedings can take months or years to resolve.

“Many families crossing the United States border are fleeing war and violence in their home countries and are already coping with the effects of stress and trauma,” APA President Altha Stewart, M.D., said in a statement opposing the separation of children from parents at the border released May 30.

APA is calling on its members to keep up the pressure and prevent further trauma from being inflicted on these children and families. APA has posted a form in its Action Center that psychiatrists can use to urge the administration to halt its destructive immigration policies immediately. Access the Action Center form now.

(Image: iStock/Suriyawut Suriya)


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