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August 14, 2018

Potential Child Health Consequences of the Federal Policy Separating Immigrant Children From Their Parents

Author Affiliations
  • 1Commissioner, New York State Department of Health, New York, New York
  • 2Chief of Staff, New York State Department of Health, New York, New York
JAMA. 2018;320(6):541-542. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.10905

Actions taken by the US federal government during the past 18 months suggest that the health and welfare of children, particularly children from marginalized groups, may no longer be a priority. The most recent example is the policy of separating children from their parents when the family enters the United States illegally or seeks asylum at the border.

In the face of mounting public and political pressure the Trump administration reversed its policy, but more than 2300 children have been removed from their parents at the border in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and sent to 17 different states as far away as Illinois, New York, and Washington State.1 A federal judge ruled that family separation must stop, reunification must occur within 30 days, and children younger than 5 years must be reunited with their parents within 14 days, but reunification plans remain vague. As of July 10, some children have been reunited with their families, but more than 2000 remain separated from their parents.2