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President's EO on Policy Separating Children from their Parents Does Not Ensure Permanent Solution

Statement attributable to:
Ana María López, MD, MPH, FACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (June 20, 2018)—The stop-gap executive order that President Trump signed this afternoon does not adequately fix the “zero tolerance” policy that led to children being separated from their parents and sent into facilities administered by the federal government.  While the order intends to end family separation, it calls for children and parents to be detained together "throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.” This new policy appears to be in conflict with the Settlement Agreement in Flores versus Sessions to protect the rights of children from prolonged detention when their parents are charged with immigration violations; court challenges to the EO, therefore, can be expected.

Accordingly, the EO does not ensure that there will be a permanent end to the policy of separating children from their parents at the border, as ACP advocates. The order also fails to address what is going to happen with the thousands of children who have already been separated from their families and remain in the custody of the U.S. government since the zero tolerance policy went into effect. Those children need to be reunited with their parents immediately. Any delay in reunification will exacerbate the negative health consequences inflicted on the children and their families.

Additionally, ACP remains concerned about the negative health consequences that have already been borne by the children and parents who have been separated. Those negative health impacts cannot be reversed. The children who were taken from their families are more likely to experience increased mental health impacts like depression, an increased likelihood of engaging in risky behavior such as smoking and alcohol abuse and drug use, and increased likelihood to develop preventable illnesses like heart disease, cancer, or stroke. These are effects that will last their entire lives.

ACP continues to call on the Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General Sessions, and President Trump to permanently end the zero tolerance policy that led to children being separated from their parents, and to facilitate the reunification of families without delay. ACP also supports the Keep Families Together bill that has been introduced in Congress, which will permanently end family separations as a means to enforce border security.  Moreover, we call for policies that will protect the physical and mental health of all of those in the U.S., including immigrants.

Contact: Julie Hirschhorn, (202) 261-4523, jhirschhorn@acponline.org

 

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.