AAP endorses humane treatment of all immigrant children

1. The current conditions under which immigrant children are detained and the support services that are provided during the immigration pathway are lacking and may contribute to re-traumatization.

2. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports more complete access to medical, psychological, and legal services throughout the immigration pathway and after children are released into the community.

Policy Rundown: Since 2014, the United States has experienced a rapid rise in immigrants arriving from the Northern Triangle Countries of Central America, escaping poverty and violence in their countries of origin. Since that time, detention centers have been used with increasing frequency as both a deterrence measure and one of convenience, to centralize the processing of thousands of immigrant families. Children, arriving with or without a parent or guardian, have inconsistent access to services and supports. Conditions in detention centers, and lack of support thereafter, can lead to retraumatization, and poor physical and psychosocial outcomes. Therefore, the AAP states that accompanied children should never be detained, nor separated from a parent, unless a court determines otherwise. Immigrant children and their families should be treated with dignity and respect throughout the immigration process. Conditions that retraumatize children should be eliminated. If children are to be detained, there should be child-friendly orientation, and regular updates as to their status and rights. Community-based alternatives should be utilized as much as possible, in lieu of detention and processing centers. All children should receive comprehensive medical care in a timely fashion that is culturally sensitive, by trained providers. Children should have access to care in a medical home, and their psychosocial health should be regularly reassessed. This includes comprehensive mental health evaluations and screening for neglect, abuse, persecution, trafficking or violence. The AAP supports additional funding for post-release services for immigrant children to facilitate access to services and education. Schools should be a safe place for immigrant children to access education. Independent child advocates should be appointed for all unaccompanied children, or trafficking victims. Children should not ever represent themselves in court. Instead, they must have access to legal services at no cost to the child or their sponsor. As advocates for all children, pediatricians should educate themselves on the legal rights and avenues available to immigrant children and families. In addition, pediatricians should support comprehensive, high quality health care in a medical home for all children.

Click to read the study published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Psychiatric assessment of children and families in immigration detention–clinical, administrative and ethical issues

Image: CC/Wiki/UK Department for International Development

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