A large cohort of children in the U.S. have been suffering unseen trauma for the last year and a half, ever since Donald Trump entered—and eventually won—the presidential election. Immigrant children and those whose parents do not have legal status have been quietly freaking out, as Trump, now in the White House, promises to crack down on immigrants via walls, deportations and registries.
Pediatricians have noticed. They want to do something about it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the top professional organization for children's doctors, issued a statement yesterday, clarifying the organization's mission of protecting the well-being of all children—no matter where they're from. The statement was issued in the same 24 hours that Trump took his first steps to fulfill his campaign pledge to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, speed the deportations of undocumented immigrants and ban refugees from entering the country.
“Following today’s immigration-focused executive orders signed by President Donald Trump, the Academy underscores continued commitment to our mission and reiterates our support for immigrant children and their families," Fernando Stein, M.D., F.A.A.P., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a press release. "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.”
'[P]articularly prolonged exposure to serious stress—known as toxic stress—can harm the developing brain and negatively impact short- and long-term health'
The AAP's statement points out that those most affected by these U.S. government actions are already victims of unspeakable violence and have been exposed to trauma.
"Children do not immigrate, they flee," Stein writes. "They are coming to the U.S. seeking safe haven in our country and they need our compassion and assistance. Broad scale expansion of family detention only exacerbates their suffering.”
Stein explains that thousands of children live with the daily and constant fear that their parents will be taken away from them. Now, they're getting messages from the most powerful person in the country that are making that fear and anxiety worse. This fear impacts health and development.
“[P]articularly prolonged exposure to serious stress—known as toxic stress—can harm the developing brain and negatively impact short- and long-term health," he wrote. “Pediatricians stand with the immigrant families we care for and will continue to advocate that their needs are met and prioritized.”
This is not the AAP's first-ever statement in defense of immigrant children and those with immigrant parents. The AAP wrote a brief in 2014, which was signed by other child health and education organizations, which clarified that immigration laws and policies that don't prioritize families harm children whose parents would face deportation.