CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) today called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to address the condition of their facilities at the southern border, which are inconsistent with evidence-based recommendations for appropriate care and treatment of children and pregnant women.

The AMA also issued a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in advance of the upcoming hearings entitled, “Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border,” and “The Trump Administration’s Child Separation Policy: Substantiated Allegations of Mistreatment.”

“Conditions in CBP facilities, including open toilets, constant light exposure, insufficient food and water, extreme temperatures, and forcing pregnant women and children to sleep on cement floors, are traumatizing. These facilities are simply not appropriate places for children or for pregnant women. We strongly urge the Administration and Congress to work with the medical community to develop policies that ensure the health of children and families is protected throughout the immigration process,” wrote AMA CEO and EVP James L. Madara, M.D.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Acting Secretary McAleenan and Acting Commissioner Morgan:

As the largest professional association for physicians and medical students, and the umbrella organization for state and national specialty medical societies, the American Medical Association (AMA) has been, and continues to be, deeply committed to ensuring the health and safety of all individuals regardless of immigration status.

We are writing to express our ongoing concerns that conditions in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody are inconsistent with evidence-based recommendations for appropriate care and treatment of children and pregnant women. Conditions in CBP facilities, which include open toilets, constant light exposure, insufficient food and water, extreme temperatures, and forcing pregnant women and children to sleep on cement floors, are traumatizing. Such facilities are simply not appropriate places for children or for pregnant women. We, along with numerous other medical and mental health organizations, have offered our strong support for passage of H.R. 3239, the “Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act,” and urge Members of Congress to work to advance this type of legislation as part of any humanitarian response to the situation at the southern border.

Families seeking refuge in the U.S. already endure emotional and physical stress, which is only exacerbated when they are separated from one another or held in family detention facilities during the pendency of their immigration proceedings. It is well known that childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences created by inhumane treatment often create negative health impacts that can last an individual’s entire lifespan. Given our concerns, we strongly urge the Administration and Congress to work with the AMA and other medical and mental health care experts to develop policies that ensure the health of children and families is protected throughout the immigration process. We further urge the Administration and Congress to work together to give priority to supporting families and protecting the health and well-being of the children within those families.

Sincerely,

James L. Madara, M.D.

AMA CEO and EVP
 

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.