APA Cautions Against Policy Separating Children From Parents at Border
May 31, 2018
APA is urging an immediate halt to a new Trump administration policy that separates children from their parents at the U.S. border.
“As physician experts in mental health, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any policy that separates children from their parents at the United States border,” APA President Altha Stewart, M.D., said in a statement released on Wednesday. “Children depend 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.”
Separations are rising under the Trump administration because of a “zero tolerance” policy issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April. That policy directs all U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest border to prosecute all attempted illegal entry offenses to the extent possible. Earlier this month, Sessions focused on migrant families traveling with minor children. He said such cases will now be referred to the Justice Department for federal prosecution, with the goal of prosecuting 100% of the cases. This means parents are sent to federal detention facilities or jails, where children are not permitted. Instead, the children are placed in shelters, many of whom do not know where their parents are or when they will see them again.
“The evidence is clear that this level of trauma also results in serious medical and health consequences for these children and their caregivers,” Stewart said. “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. These children deserve our protection and should remain with their families as they seek asylum.”