Press Release |

Immigrant children and families deserve dignity and compassion

In response to the Trump administration’s detention of immigrant families at the U.S./Mexico border, Dr. Raul Gutierrez, faculty with Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued the following statement:

“The recent executive order calling for the end of forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S. southern border is only the first step in dismantling the cruel treatment of children and families seeking refuge. As a doctor who works with young immigrant patients and on behalf of Physicians for Reproductive Health, I join the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, and other health care provider voices in condemning the unacceptable action of detaining immigrant families, including children, under the ‘zero tolerance’ policy. The appallingly callous treatment of asylum seekers who have done what any parent would do by trying to remove themselves and their children from danger is not only inhumane, but also medically dangerous to the development and health of children.

Every day in my work, I see the long-lasting impact that harsh anti-immigrant policies have on young people’s lives.

“Every day in my work, I see the long-lasting impact that harsh anti-immigrant policies have on young people’s lives. As medical experts, we know that keeping children in detention facilities or other equally harmful environments causes toxic stress resulting in deep emotional and psychological harm. It also exposes children to risks of illness, physical and sexual abuse, and other potential threats. These actions are violations of human rights laws, of the reproductive justice principle of a parent’s right to raise their children in safety, and of self-evident moral truths.

“I urge our government to take immediate action to ensure that immigrant families seeking refuge are treated with compassion, dignity, and respect. Immigrant children should not be placed in detention. They should have access to legal counsel to navigate our immigration system and remain within the safe haven of family and community to mitigate the harms from which they flee.”

Raul Gutierrez, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in San Francisco and Oakland, CA and faculty with Physicians for Reproductive Health’s Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program (ARSHEP).