The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) continues to be concerned about the physical and mental health well being of the children in the custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). While unaccompanied minors crossing the Southern border has been a long-term issue, the detention protocols in recent years have been particularly distressing to the health care community.
Since 2018, NAPNAP has been actively monitoring the situation and our leaders have been engaging with elected and agency officials regarding the health of detained children. Executive Board members traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2018 to speak directly with Congressional leaders to share our members’ expert opinions and experiences of the negative child health impacts of the detention facilities and call for improved access for health care professionals to care for detained children. In 2019, our leaders spoke with the U.S. Office of the Inspector General to request investigations into the facilities and health of the children. Later in 2019, we applauded a Federal court judge’s decision to uphold the Flores Settlement, a historic agreement which provides protections for immigrant children. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP were forced to limit the time that children are in detention facilities and quickly find family or other placements for them.
With the current surge of unaccompanied minors at the Southern border, our leadership is once again working with our pediatric partners to strongly advocate to the Biden Administration and its agency personnel that detained children must have access to pediatric trauma-informed care and be relocated to safer, more healthy living situations as quickly as possible. As the federal government looks to improve immigration policies, NAPNAP calls on leaders to prioritize the physical and mental health and safety of all immigrant children to avoid long-term negative health impacts.
Although many members want to provide immediate assistance, the CBP maintains strict rules about onsite health care providers and prohibits volunteers. We encourage members wishing to assist children who are moved out of detention into community settings to contact local organizations in Southern border states providing direct services such as Catholic Charities, community organizations and other faith-based groups. Volunteers will probably need to prove licensure in the state, or an RN Compact state, to provide health care services.
March 18, 2021