Toxic Stress in Children of Immigrant Detainees


kids of deported parentsPediatricians are sounding the alarm on the health effects of children traumatically separated from detained immigrant parents. Responding to the Executive Order expanding deportation, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Fernando Stein stated

The executive orders signed today are harmful to immigrant children and families throughout our country.they deserve to be healthy and safe.”

Nonetheless, on June 15 the Secretary of Homeland Security rescinded the  Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) which protected undocumented parents of US citizen children from deportation.

5 million children who are US citizens have at least one undocumented parent. 660,000 children were separated from parents due to deportation between 1998 and 2012. By May, non-criminal immigration arrests increased by 150%.

Pediatricians warn that constant fear of parental deportation results in feeding, sleep and learning problems, depression, and illness and toxic stress, which can hinder brain development. Adverse experiences in childhood predispose individuals to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Even before Trump’s actions, immigrant and American-born Hispanic mothers in Iowa were 24 percent more likely to have low-birthweight babies after a federal immigration raid. Delays in preventive care and medical treatment followed Arizona immigration legislation. Parents, even those with children with disabilities, hear of a single parent of a child with cerebral palsy being deported to Colombia, and stay home foregoing medical care due to fear of detainment.

Pediatricians are raising their voices, lobbying for protection of community sanctuary status, designing emergency care documents for immigrant families, and writing letters supporting parental care for special health needs.

Homeland Security must immediately limit arrests to immigrants with a documented criminal record, and provide agency assistance in creating family care plans before detention. Until federal raids are halted, states must defend the sovereignty of sanctuary communities for immigrants. Children must be put first.

foster care deported image


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3 Responses to “Toxic Stress in Children of Immigrant Detainees”

  1. jlopez48 Says:

    This is a great post about the public health concerns that impact the children of undocumented immigrants, such as mental illness and chronic disease. While I partially agree that Homeland Security must limit arrests to undocumented immigrants with a documented criminal record; the deportation issue does not end with those who have a criminal record. According to the American Psychological Association, illegal re-entries account for 83% of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Therefore, it begs the question whether a person should be deported because they re-entered the US illegally rather than commit more prevalent crimes in the US, such as violent crimes. It almost seems unfair after reading an article in the Global Citizen titled, Why People Migrate, which states persecution and violence as the top 2 reasons that people migrate from their home country. Overall, immigrants emigrate from stressors within their home country to confront additional stressors later within the US. Policymakers must be highly specific about who must be deported to decrease its impact on the health status of children with undocumented parents.

  2. dshah133 Says:

    Thank you for this post, you have shed light on one of the most pressing problems faced by one of the quietest populations in the country. I agree whole heartedly with the points you raised here, however the question remains as to who would be the most active player to take up this cause as this issue encompasses many issues. Are there any other prominent stake holders other than the American Psychological Association attempting to bring more attention to this matter? Would the involvement of civil rights groups such as the ACLU add other perspectives and alleviate its urgency? 5 million US citizens undergoing avoidable chronic stressors is too large a number to ignore.

  3. asdo001 Says:

    I am so saddened to read this blog post. Thank you for drawing attention to this public health crisis directly caused by the Trump administration’s rescindment of DACA. It is hard to believe that five million children are at risk of losing a parent. While DACA has made headlines frequently this year, I have yet to hear any journalist discuss the health-related repercussions related to even fear of a parent being deported as you so articulately outlined. It stands to reason that these are real tangible threats to children’s health. It is also clear that undocumented parents would be very reticent to seek necessary medical help for themselves or their children for fear of deportation. From your post it is clear that the rescindment is a threat to the human rights of children with undocumented parents in the United States. Every child deserves to be healthy and not to live in fear. Luckily the Supreme Court has “slowed down” the Trump administration’s push to rescind DACA and the program will still exist for at least another year it seems.

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