Population Care

Doctors oppose policy that splits kids from caregivers at border

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

A policy of universally separating children from their parents or other caregivers entering U.S. borders “will do great harm” to children and could “create negative health impacts that will last an individual’s entire lifespan,” says a resolution whose recommendations were adopted at the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The resolution came in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s new policy referring all unlawful border crossers to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution. The policy makes no exception for parents or caregivers seeking asylum from persecution who enter with children, according to the resolution.

The children are then treated as unaccompanied minors, separated from their parents or caregivers and sent to facilities administered by the federal government. The policy of separating children from their caregivers “only serves to dramatically exacerbate” the stress that families seeking refuge in the U.S. are already experiencing, the resolution says.

“Children leaving the chaos of their home countries should not be further traumatized by the U.S. government policy of separating children from their caregiver,” said AMA Board Member Bobby Mukkamala, MD. “It’s inhumane and risks scarring children for the rest of their lives.”

The AMA House of Delegates adopted new policy for the AMA to:

  • Oppose the practice of separating migrating children from their caregivers in the absence of immediate physical or emotional threats to the child’s well-being.

Delegates also directed the AMA to:

  • Urge the federal government to withdraw its policy of requiring separation of migrating children from their caregivers, and instead, give priority to supporting families and protecting the health and well-being of the children within those families.

Read more news coverage from the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting.