APA Statement on Expected Rule Eliminating 20-Day Limit on Detaining Immigrant Children

Decision is detrimental to children's mental health, says APA


Newswise — WASHINGTON – Following is the statement of Jaime “Jim” Diaz-Granados, PhD, deputy CEO of the American Psychological Association, regarding the administration’s expected decision to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement, which limited to 20 days the time immigrant children can be held in custody:

“Allowing immigrant children to be detained longer than 20 days, even with their families, is a misguided attempt by this administration to stem the flow across the southern border. As the American Psychological Association has said repeatedly, the mental health problems that children and their families experience as a result of detention are well documented. Research has shown higher rates of anxiety and depression among children held at detention centers. One study found children were up to 10 times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder if they were detained.

“The large majority of these children have already experienced trauma before arriving at immigration facilities, and the longer they are held in detention, the more likely their mental health will continue to suffer. Creating a new federal licensing system for facilities to detain families with children is not a solution. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that the mitigating factor having parents present does not negate the deleterious impact of extended detention on children’s mental and physical health.

“The American Psychological Association recommends that we expand and improve mental health access for newly arriving immigrants at the border and alleviate stress for border agents and detention center staff. APA also recommends ensuring that psychologists are placed in detention centers to help ameliorate the crisis.  

“Finally, APA calls on Congress to overturn this rule, along with the ‘public charge’ rule announced Aug. 12, under procedures contained in the Congressional Review Act before they both go into effect.”  

According to media reports, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services plan to issue a new rule Friday to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement, the federal consent decree that has set basic standards for the detention of migrant children and teens since 1997.

In November 2018, APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, sent a letter to Debbie Seguin, assistant director in the policy office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, voicing APA’s opposition to the rule after it was first proposed.

At its annual meeting earlier this month, APA passed a new policy calling on lawmakers in Congress and statehouses to ensure immigrant and refugee families and children can access medical, mental health and social services.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 118,400 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve lives.

www.apa.org

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