ACP Calls Attention to Harm Caused by Separation and Detention of Immigrant Families

(from the July 13, 2018 ACP Advocate)

The American College of Physicians has sent powerful and firm messages to the Trump administration in recent weeks: The families who have been separated at the border must be immediately reunified, and the president's June 20 executive order that would allow for indefinite family detention is not an acceptable alternative to this deeply harmful practice.

“As an organization of specialty and subspecialty physicians who take care of adults, ACP is committed to supporting the health and well-being of our patients through disease prevention and health promotion,” said Dr. Ana María López, ACP's president. “This policy of family separation induces trauma and induces illness, and the health impact of prolonged family separation would be similar. Thus, these actions are in direct opposition to our goal and mission as physicians.”

The Trump administration's family separation policy took effect in April, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a “zero-tolerance” crackdown as a deterrent to illegal border crossers, including those seeking asylum. As a result, more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents at the border and placed in government-licensed shelters or in temporary foster care with families across the country,” according to a New York Times report.

“Family separation induces trauma to the child and to the adult,” López said. “This level of trauma has both short- and long-term health sequelae that last a lifetime. Immediate effects may include delays in development and regression of development, including cognitive delays. Even after being reunited, the child may exhibit signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress with difficulty separating from the parent. This level of trauma has been associated with increased incidence of chronic diseases, including behavioral problems such as depression and anxiety. Chronic illnesses span diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and cancer.”

After a national outcry against the policy, the president issued an executive order that the administration has portrayed as ending the problem. But, ACP noted that “it calls for children and parents to be detained together” while the parents undergo criminal proceedings.

ACP does not consider this to be a solution to the family separation issue.

Read the full article in ACP Advocate.

The ACP Advocate is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that provides ACP members with news about public policy issues affecting internal medicine and patient care.

Back to the September 2018 issue of ACP IMpact