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Toxic Stress in Children of Immigrant Detainees

August 6, 2017

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Nonetheless, on June 15 the Secretary of Homeland Security rescinded the  Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) which protected undocumented parents of US citizen children from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

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