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A joint public statement on US Immigration policies and practices from multiple psychology organizations and groups committed to social justice. A list of additional information and resources is also available below.
This statement is an official statement of the specific signatories listed below, and does not represent the position of the American Psychological Association (APA) or any of its other Divisions or subunits not listed.
By the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race (APA Division 45), Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), National Latina/o Psychological Association, Society of Indian Psychologists (SIP), American Arab, Middle Eastern, and North African Psychological Association (AMENA-Psy), APA Committee of International Relations in Psychology (APA CIRP), APA Division of Psychoanalysis (APA Division 39), Developmental Psychology (APA Division 7), Psychologists in Public Service (APA Division 18), Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology (APA Division 6), Society for Couple and Family Psychology (APA Division 43), Society for Humanistic Psychology (APA Division 32), Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27), Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (APA Division 44), Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities (APA Division 51), Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence (APA Division 48), Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (APA Division 24), Society of Counseling Psychology (APA Division 17), Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (APA Division 49).
As psychology groups committed to social justice, we find it necessary to comment on the ongoing and ever-changing policies that serve to dehumanize immigrants, asylum-seekers, and their families in the U.S. Although the June 20, 2018 executive order halts the unconscionable practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, it is critical that the current Administration take the necessary steps to expeditiously reunite those families that have already suffered separation, and acknowledge and respond to the pain and suffering these cruel immigration practices have created on families and communities.
At the core, we strongly stand against any policy that criminalizes parents fleeing poverty, violence, and political persecution in search of a safe and better life for their children and that is more frequently resulting in immoral “zero-tolerance” practices.
For the sake of clarity and stability, we contend that the existing inhumane practices be replaced by more permanent laws that safeguard the well-being of immigrant and asylum-seeking families. In essence our position as mental health professionals and psychologists reflects the well-established fact that current immigration policies and practices (including “warehousing” immigrants) are likely to result in irreparable and lifelong physical and psychological harm to both parents and children. Before the executive order, more than 2300 children were separated from their parents. Alarmingly, some 1400 undocumented minors are allegedly lost in the system.
Our position is based, in part, on the fact that the practices accompanying the zero-tolerance policy goes contrary to the moral, humane, and democratic principles and values upon which this country was founded. It is also supported by the fact that U.S. asylum and immigration have historically operated as part of a cluster of constitutional and international laws that emphasize the value of all families.
Pragmatically, we also acknowledge and accept the fact that the indefensible immigration practice of separating children from their parents appears to be driven by political expediency. The zero-tolerance policy and corresponding practices should not be used as political leverage, with children and families as hostages and/or pawns, to force passage of its unpopular immigration agenda. Suffice it to say that it is not an option to use the well-being of children and families as a political bargaining chip. Such action should not be permitted in a democratic society.
Given our interest, dedication, and commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of immigrant and asylum-seeking children and families, we specifically bring attention to selective physical and psychological health concerns, issues, and problems associated with parent-child separations. These concerns emerge from research findings. We provide this information to increase awareness of the impact of past and present immigration practices as we chart out ways to respond to the health and well-being of immigrant families in the future.
We write this statement to urge support for the abolition of all policies and practices that harm immigrants, asylum-seekers, and families. We understand we must assume our share of the responsibility of creating more just policies and practices as we move forward. It is our obligation as members of this society to encourage Congress and the Courts to act; lawsuits, protests, and the ballot box can and will make a difference. We must continue to reject the Administration’s claim that it has unfettered power to regulate the border (Collins, Mayeri, & Motomura, 2018). While it may take time to undo the havoc that the Administration has created on the border, the harm done to separated families will take far, far longer to repair. To this end:
We urge elected officials, the Courts, and others to:
Members of our organizations are prepared to assist by providing the following to those who are directly affected or to those agencies providing services to those directly affected by these inhumane immigration policies and practices:
English: Mixed Status Immigrant Families in Times of Fear and Uncertainty: A Toolkit for Parents https://icrace.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/final-immigrant-parent-toolkit.pdf
Spanish: Herramientas para Familias Inmigrantes con Miembros Indocumentados: Fuerza en Tiempos de Miedo e Incertidumbre https://icrace.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/final-spanish-immigrant-parent-toolkit1.pdf
NPR Segment where Physicians Discuss the Health Impact of Family Separation https://www.npr.org/2018/06/15/620254326/doctors-warn-about-dangers-of-child-separations
Organizations Working on Behalf of Asylum-Seekers and Immigrants
Resources for Torture Survivors, Refugees, Detainees, & Asylum Seekers https://kspope.com/torvic/torture.php
Naming It - #RealTalk 1-on-1: Dr. Nekeshia Hammond - Child Psychologist on Children in Cages http://www.blogtalkradio.com/namingit/2018/06/28/realtalk-1-on-1-dr-nekeshia-hammond-- child-psychologist-on-children-in-cages
American Psychological Association. (2012). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration. Washington, DC: Author.
González, J. J., Kula, S. M., González, V. V., & Paik, S. J. (2017). Context of Latino students' family separation during and after immigration: Perspectives, challenges, and opportunities for collaborative efforts. School Community Journal, 27(2), 211-228.
Linton, J. M., Kennedy, E., Shapiro, A., & Griffin, M. (2018). Unaccompanied children seeking safe haven: Providing care and supporting well-being of a vulnerable population. Children and Youth Services Review. Available online.
Linton, J. M., Griffin, M., & Shapiro, A. J. (2017). Detention of immigrant children. Pediatrics, e20170483.
Miller, A., Hess, J. M., Bybee, D., & Goodkind, J. R. (2018). Understanding the mental health consequences of family separation for refugees: Implications for policy and practice. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 88(1), 26-37.
Roche, K. M., Vaquera, E., White, R. M., & Rivera, M. I. (2018). Impacts of immigration actions and news and the psychological distress of US Latino parents raising adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(5), 525-531.
Torres, S. A., Santiago, C. D., Walts, K. K., & Richards, M. H. (2018). Immigration policy, practices, and procedures: The impact on the mental health of Mexican and Central American youth and families. American Psychologist. Advance online publication.
Roth, B. J., Crea, T. M., Jani, J., & Underwood, D. (2018). Detached and afraid: US immigration policy and the practice of forcibly separating parents and young children at the border. Working Paper.
*Please email Division45apa@gmail.com to request a list of psychologists with expertise related to immigration, detainees, and asylum-seekers. These are individuals who can speak more directly to the issues addressed in the statement.