The LMHANJ Executive Board unanimously endorses the following two statements made by the National Latinx Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association.

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As an organization of mental health professionals dedicated to advocating for Latinx communities, members of the National Latina/o Psychological Association (NLPA) voice their
staunch and collective outrage concerning reports that hundreds of children have been recently separated from their adult caregivers at the United States border. This is an egregious abuse of
power that is meant to instill fear into the hearts of innocent people, many who are already traumatized by the circumstances from which they are fleeing. We recognize that children are
vulnerable to exploitation and further victimization, and their safety should be our top priority. However, the answer is not forced separation from their adult caregivers who provide their
only sense of security. This action places both the child and adult in an untenable situation that may result in dire consequences. Whether this policy is meant to act as a deterrent to other
families from making the journey to this country or as a protective measure, the fact remains that tearing families apart when they are most vulnerable is a violation of human rights and
must immediately stop.

Once these children enter the system, they effectively enter a quagmire that is not prepared to track and care for unaccompanied minors. This has already been documented as the Office of
Refugee Resettlement has lost track of 1,475 immigrant children placed in the homes of sponsors, some who do not have the best interest of the children, as reports indicate. Children
have been given to human traffickers or others who exploit them for cheap labor. The ACLU has also recently reported (May 2018) on the alleged abuse of unaccompanied minors at the hands
of the US Customs and Border Protection. Additionally, caregivers often have no way of knowing what has happened to their loved ones. The sequelae to these chaotic and abrupt
separations only serve to compound the challenges they face, including potentially devastating consequences to their mental and physical health. It has been documented that children placed
in detention experience high levels of anxiety, psychosomatic complaints, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation (Bhaba & Schmidt, 2008; Chavez & Menjívar, 2010; Ruiz et al., 2013;
Women’s Refugee Commission, 2012; Zapata Roblyer et al., 2017). The separation experienced by these children from parents and other caregivers presents a number of other associated risk
factors for psychopathology, including a lack of emotional support, heightened risk for abuse and neglect, and emotional vulnerabilities related to disrupted attachments. The trauma
literature indicates that initial traumatic experiences and resulting emotional dysregulation may lead to subsequent heightened risk for re-victimization (e.g., physical and sexual violence) and
vulnerability to psychopathology (de Arellano et al., 2017; Aldarondo et al., 2011). Instead of a country that treats people with dignity, respect, and empathy, these actions cast a dark shadow
over our sense of social justice, and ultimately, our humanity. 

NLPA is ready to provide consultation to Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Protection officials on how best to
handle this delicate situation. Together, we can create sensible guidelines that will ensure the safety of vulnerable children and adults. We ask that our publicly elected officials demonstrate
compassion in the policies and laws they enact. 

References
ACLU (2018, May). Neglect and abuse of unaccompanied immigrant children by U.S. Customs
and Border Protection. Retrieved from American Civil Liberties Union website:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/lplnnufjbwci0xn/CBP%20Report%20ACLU_IHRC%205.23%20FI
NAL.pdf?dl=0
Aldarondo, E., & Becker, R. (2011). Promoting the well-being of unaccompanied immigrant
minors. In Creating Infrastructures for Latino Mental Health (pp. 195-214). Springer: New York.
Bhabha, J., & Schmidt, S. (2008). Seeking asylum alone: Unaccompanied and separated
children and refugee protection in the U.S. The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth,
1(1), 126-138.
Chavez, L., & Menjívar, C. (2010). Children without borders: A mapping of the literature on
unaccompanied migrant children to the United States. Migraciones Internacionales, 5(3), 71–
111.
de Arellano, M. A., Andrews, A. R., Reid-Quiñones, K., Vasquez, D., Doherty, L. S., Danielson, C.
K., & Rheingold, A. (2017). Immigration trauma among Hispanic youth: Missed by trauma
assessments and predictive of depression and PTSD symptoms. Journal of Latina/o Psychology.
Ruiz, J. M., Gallardo, M. E., & Delgado-Romero, E. A. (2013). Latinas/os and immigration reform:
A commentary to 'Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century'—The report
of the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 1(3), 149-
154.
Women’s Refugee Commission. (2012). Forced from home: The lost boys and girls of Central
America. Retrieved from
https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/uncategorized/2057-forced-from-home-the-lostboys-
and-girls-of-central-america-background-and-report
Zapata Roblyer, M. I., Carlos, F. L., Merten, M. J., Gallus, K., & Grzywacz, J. G. (2017).
Psychosocial factors associated with depressive symptoms among Latina immigrants living in a
new arrival community. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 5(2), 103-117.

 

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STATEMENT OF APA PRESIDENT REGARDING THE TRAUMATIC EFFECTS OF SEPARATING IMMIGRANT FAMILIES


WASHINGTON – Following is the statement of APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, regarding the deleterious impact on the health and well-being of children and families who are separated as they seek to enter the United States without proper documentation:

“The administration’s policy of separating children from their families as they attempt to cross into the United States without documentation is not only needless and cruel, it threatens the mental and physical health of both the children and their caregivers. Psychological research shows that immigrants experience unique stressors related to the conditions that led them to flee their home countries in the first place. The longer that children and parents are separated, the greater the reported symptoms of anxiety and depression for the children. Negative outcomes for children include psychological distress, academic difficulties and disruptions in their development.
  
“The American Psychological Association calls on the administration to rescind this policy and keep immigrant families intact. We support practical, humane immigration policies that consider the needs of immigrants, and particularly immigrant families. We must adopt policies that take into account what we know about the harmful, long-term psychological effects of separation on children and their families. This is not an acceptable policy to counter unlawful immigration.”