The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) calls for immediate action to initiate an investigation of the safety of and conditions in detention facilities under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the southwestern border of the United States, particularly the conditions in which children, minors and families are held in those facilities. As noted in our June 2018 statement on families at the border, we are concerned about the immediate and long term mental and physical health effects of detaining and separating children from their caregivers.
As covered in the media, we know that at least six migrant children have died in the federal government’s custody in the last eight months. This situation is intolerable and could be construed as a humanitarian crisis. NAPNAP and its members are concerned that overcrowded conditions in Border Patrol detention facilities that were not designed to safely house children and minors are putting children’s health and lives at imminent risk. CBP officials acknowledged to members of Congress that current facilities and healthcare resources are inadequate to cope with the increased number of migrants that are being detained. Those officials also said the existing short-term holding facilities were not designed for the large volume of families with children or for detaining those families in long-term custody. Officials told Congress CBP has experienced more than three times the number of detainees they normally consider a high total.
Despite these admissions, the escalating situation in these facilities has not been adequately addressed. Based on the tragic experience of the last eight months, NAPNAP fears that the conditions under which children and minors are being held in these detention facilities will lead to irreparable physical and mental harm, traumatic injuries and more needless and preventable deaths. Additionally, the crowded and inadequate detention conditions could create public health risks due to infectious disease spread. We believe a comprehensive investigation by the Department of Homeland Security is essential to a fair, accurate evaluation of this situation and the steps needed to address it.