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January 26, 2017

AAP: Trump’s Immigration Executive Orders Are Harmful to Children

Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a strong rebuke in the wake of the President’s Executive Orders on immigration and asylum seekers.

"Immigrant families are our neighbors, they are part of every community, and they are our patients. The Executive Orders signed today are harmful to immigrant children and families throughout our country. Many of the children who will be most affected are the victims of unspeakable violence and have been exposed to trauma. Children do not immigrate, they flee. They are coming to the U.S. seeking safe haven in our country and they need our compassion and assistance.”

Human Rights First condemned the executive order signed by President Trump that appeared aimed at blocking access to asylum for refugees at the border and would lead more asylum seekers to be held in U.S. immigration detention for months or longer. The U.S. government’s existing policy of choice was already to lock up asylum seekers—including families with young children—in immigration detention centers.

These jail-like facilities often exacerbate the trauma asylum seekers face and impede access to legal counsel. The AAP reiterated in their statement that “[b]road scale expansion of family detention only exacerbates their [children and families] suffering.”

The order comes as immigration detention is at an all-time high, and asylum seekers are being detained for months or more in jails and facilities that resemble prisons. In a series of reports issued in 2016, Human Rights First documented the sharp escalation of detention of asylum seekers over the last few years (see: Lifeline on LockdownDetention of Asylum Seekers in New JerseyDetention of Asylum Seekers in Georgia).

Human Rights First has documented that women and children held in immigration detention facilities—even for short periods of time—suffer serious adverse mental and physical health effects. Detention exacerbates the trauma that many asylum seekers have fled. Detention has been deeply criticized by a wide array of voices, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, 178 members of the House of Representatives and 35 senators, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and numerous faith groups.