Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD: Holding children in federal facilities for longer than the 20 days allowed by current law is unacceptable

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2018 – Following is the statement of American Psychological Association President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, in response to the Trump administration’s proposal to detain migrant children beyond the 20 days allowed by current law:

We are dismayed that the administration continues to place the mental and physical health of migrant children and their families in jeopardy. Holding children – even with their parents – in these federal facilities for longer than the 20 days allowed by current law is unacceptable. Research has shown that immigrant detainees are particularly vulnerable to psychological stress. Furthermore, the longer the detention period, the greater the risk of depression and other mental health symptoms for immigrants who were previously exposed to interpersonal trauma.

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The United States has historically served as a safe haven for the world’s refugees and a destination for those interested in the opportunities that our nation offers. We must strive to develop ways to secure our borders from those very few who should not be admitted while continuing to welcome those who come seeking asylum.

Daniel was responding to a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register seeking to amend regulations related to the apprehension, processing, care, custody and release of migrant children. Under a 1997 decision called the Flores Settlement Agreement, the U.S. government may detain minors in immigration centers no longer than 20 days. Recent attempts by the administration to extend that amount of time have been rejected by a federal court.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. ww.apa.org