Day of Action – Oppose the Separation of Immigrant Children and Parents

Friday, May 4, the American Academy of Pediatrics is leading a day of action to oppose the separation of immigrant children and parents at the border.

Please join the AAP and other national advocacy, health and medical groups; when we speak together with one message, on one day, Congress listens.

The Issue

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been forcibly separating children from their parents as they cross the U.S. southern border. This harmful, ineffective practice has been justified as a way to deter families from migrating to the United States. The New York Times estimates that nearly 700 children have been separated since October, including 100 who are under the age of four.

The AAP is opposed to this practice. Thursday, AAP President Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP, was published in the Los Angeles Times explaining what she saw during her recent trip to the border and how this practice is already impacting children.

Prolonged exposure to serious stress - known as toxic stress - can harm children's developing brains and their short- and long-term health. As we learned during Hurricane Katrina when children were rescued and placed in different shelters from their parents without contact for prolonged periods of time, one of the most stressful events that can happen to a child is to be separated from his or her parent.

Friday, a San Diego federal court judge will hear directly from lawyers representing parents who have been separated from their children and are often unable to make regular contact with them as they are kept apart in federal custody. Several pediatricians submitted affidavits in this case, challenging the government's actions and sharing their own perspectives on the toll such separation takes on children.

Tell Congress to protect children's health and demand an end to the separation of children and parents.

Two ways to join tomorrow's Day of Action:

  • Call your federal legislators and urge them to oppose the separation of children and parents at the border. Urge them to tell DHS to immediately end this practice once and for all.
    • The DC office phone numbers for your members of Congress are below. We've also included talking points to guide your outreach. If you would prefer to contact the offices via email, you can do so here.
  • Share messages on social media using #ProtectFamilies to help explain the toll such a practice takes on child health. Sample messages are below:
    • Separating children from their parents at the border as they arrive seeking safe haven, which the federal government is currently doing, is cruel, inhumane and harms children's health. We must end this practice once and for all.  #ProtectFamilies
    • .(@handle of U.S. Senator or Representative), I am a pediatrician in (state) and I am dedicated to the health of ALL children. Please oppose the practice of separating children from their parents at the border. @AmerAcadPeds has spoken out against it because it harms children's health. Today I join them. #ProtectFamilies
    • .(@handle of U.S. Senator or Representative), more than 200 organizations signed a letter demanding that the Department of Homeland Security #ProtectFamilies and end the practice of separating children from their parents at border. Please join us. https://www.theyoungcenter.org/stories/2018/1/16/experts-oppose-plans-to-take-children-from-parents-at-border
    • Highly stressful experiences, including being separated from a parent, can harm children's developing brains and their overall health, which is why I oppose the forced separation of children and their parents at the border. We must #ProtectFamilies, not tear them apart.
    • I stand with @AmerAcadPeds and @AAPPres, who wrote in the @latimes that the government must #ProtectFamilies, not tear them apart. We must stop separating parents and children when they arrive here seeking refuge: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-kraft-border-separation-suit-20180503-story.html

DC Office Phone Numbers

Rep. David Young (R) (202) 225-5476
Sen. Charles Grassley (R) (202) 224-3744
Sen. Joni Ernst (R) (202) 224-3254

Talking points

  • Hello. My name is {insert name}. As a constituent and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I urge {insert Representative's/Senator's name} to oppose the separation children and parents at the border.
  • Please tell the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately end this practice once and for all.
  • Children do not immigrate, they flee. Parents will continue to flee violence to protect their children and themselves and seek safe haven in our country.
  • Studies overwhelmingly demonstrate the irreparable harm to children caused by separation from their parents.
  • As children develop, their brains change in response to environments and experiences. Highly stressful experiences can disrupt the building of children's brain architecture. Prolonged exposure to serious stress - known as toxic stress - can harm the developing brain and harm short- and long-term health.
  • A parent or caregiver's role is to mitigate stress. Family separation robs children of that buffer, which can lead to toxic stress, impair brain development and learning and contribute to chronic conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes the separation of children and parents. As a pediatrician, I am urging {insert Representative's/Senator's name} to do the same and tell DHS to immediately end this practice.
  • Thank you for your time.