MAMFT Opposes the Practice of Separating Children from Families at the Southern Border
White House Administrations have long granted exceptions to immigrant families detained while crossing the border to ensure that children would not be separated from their parents/primary caregivers. This past April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions put into effect a “Zero Tolerance” policy created by President Trump that would no longer allow such exceptions. Over a 6-week period that followed (April 19 to May 31), a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that 1,995 children have been unwillingly separated from their families and caregivers and sent to government detention centers (Davis, 2018). 1,995 children in only 6 weeks. As this remarkable influx of child detainees is driving current facilities beyond capacity, the Department of Health and Human Services has recently located a desert in Tornillo, Texas where they plan to erect a “tent city” to house an additional 450 children (Soboroff, Kube, & Ainsley, 2018).
As systemically-trained mental health professionals, the concern for these children’s wellbeing is both indisputable and alarming. An elementary understanding of the many consequences that follow traumatic disruptions to attachment figures should have been enough to deter any implementation of this policy–tragically, it was not. Considering our advanced understanding of the empiricism across disciplines demonstrating the lifelong impact of attachment-related trauma on neurobiological development of the individual along with the lasting impact on surrounding systems elevates our social responsibility to take a stand against these practices. That is why MAMFT, along with more than 140 other professional associations (including AAMFT, APA, and NASW) and 7,500+ mental health professionals, signed Child’s World America’s petition to stop separating children from their families along the southern border.
Along with the efforts of Child’s World America, MAMFT further supports the “Keep Families Together Act” recently introduced in the Senate that would protect immigrant children from being separated from their parents/caregivers. Driven by Senator Dianne Feinstein with full support from Senate Democrats, so long as enough Republican Senators endorse the efforts it can pass both chambers this week (Carney, 2018). Republican leaders have already stated their dismay toward these harmful and traumatic practices (Daly, Freking, & Colvin, 2018), along with notable criticisms from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Evangelical leader Franklin Graham as they boldly reminded the current White House Administration of President Trump’s power to stop these “disgraceful” practices immediately without the need and delay of legislation moving through congress (Ingber, 2018).
As we can see, promoting the health and wellbeing of children and families is a nonpartisan debate and social responsibility of our profession. When harm is being done, we are ethically obligated to use our professional presence to promote the safety of vulnerable populations. We will work to ensure our voice is heard by elected leaders in positions to disrupt this ongoing harm, and appreciate the ongoing support of our membership in addressing these issues during such trying times for our strained social system. If you have any feedback on ways MAMFT can further advance these efforts or wish to offer a comment on the matter, please send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-MAMFT’s Social Justice Committee on behalf of the Board of Directors