By Rebecca Bell, MD, MPH

We at the UVM Medical Center and our Children’s Hospital stand with our colleagues from around the country in opposing the inhumane detention of immigrant children at the southern border.

The recent enactment of a “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump administration has resulted in an alarming increase in the detention of children crossing this border. Since May, over 2000 children have been separated from their parents, and while the Trump administration has promised to end the forceful separation of children from parents, it is currently vowing to continue the practice of placing families in detention.

The negative effects of detention – and the toxic stress that it causes – are well-known to pediatricians and child health experts. Further, it is important to remember that the vast majority of children crossing the southern border are fleeing violence. Placing families in detention centers or separating children from their parents only adds to an incredibly traumatic situation.

As pediatricians, we bear witness every day to the incredibly powerful bond between parents and children. We know that parents are willing to go to great lengths to provide them with a safe and nurturing environment. Instead of detaining and separating families, children and their parents should be placed in community-based case management programs while navigating our legal immigration system. In the past, these programs have allowed children to learn and grow in a supportive environment.

We thank our political leaders who have spoken out against this mistreatment of children at the border, and we urge the Vermont Congressional Delegation to vote against any legislation that allows for prolonged detention of children or rolls back protections for asylum seekers.

Learn more about the effects of toxic stress on children.

Rebecca Bell, MD, MPH, is a pediatric critical care physician at the UVM Children’s Hospital, an assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine and vice president-elect of the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.






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