The Academy is opposing federal efforts that will separate parents and children crossing the country’s southwest border illegally.
AAP President Colleen A. Kraft, M.D., M.B.A., FAAP, said she is outraged by the “sweeping cruelty” of dividing immigrant families who often are fleeing for their lives.
“The new policy is the latest example of harmful actions by the Department of Homeland Security against immigrant families, hindering their right to seek asylum in our country and denying parents the right to remain with their children,” she said in a statement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the initiative in Arizona Monday during a speech to the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.
“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you,” he said, according to prepared remarks. “… If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.”
Authorities already have been carrying out the initiative informally. The New York Times estimates that since October, nearly 700 children have been separated from their parents.
The Academy has been vocal in its opposition, writing letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and joining more than 200 organizations in calling for authorities to halt these efforts as the extreme stress of separation can have long-lasting impacts on children’s health.
Dr. Kraft recently visited a shelter for unaccompanied children in Texas, witnessing their suffering firsthand.
“Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children’s health,” she said.
The Academy will continue to urge DHS and the Department of Justice to reverse the policy.
“We can and must do better for these families,” Dr. Kraft said. “We can and must remember that immigrant children are still children; they need our protection, not prosecution.”