Physicians Are Standing Up and Speaking Out

If any physician suspects that a child (or an elder) is being abused, they are legally required to call the appropriate authorities.

When Washington D.C. pediatrician Sanjiv Sriram saw that children were being abused, he did just that. He called Child Protective Services… on the Trump administration.

In his excellent, informative article on this, he cites numerous well-publicized documented episodes:

“Armed border guards are forcibly separating hundreds of immigrant children from their parents, many of whom are legally seeking asylum. In one instance, an infant was taken from a mother while breastfeeding. Another mother was forced to put her terrified toddler in a car seat and watch as border guards drove away with him. Other families are being told lies such as the guards are taking children to a nearby location for a photograph, food, clothing, and/or a shower. Then the parents are hauled to jail with zero information about if, how, or when they will be reunified with their children.”

He is speaking of Trump’s new, merciless enforcement of a Nazi-style “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The policy is essentially using children as a political tool in the Republicans’ favor. It is morally repugnant.

He is not the only physician speaking out about this. Pediatrician Colleen Kraft is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and she recently toured a detention facility. She describes the horror and helplessness she felt when she saw a lone toddler crying for her mother, which was even worse knowing what psychological and physical damage we are inflicting on this child and others when we separate them from their parents. These children have already fled violence and endured days and weeks of uncertainty and unstable surroundings, suffering from hunger, cold, heat, and fear.

Then, at our hands, they are taken from their only source of stability and comfort. This is piling on the toxic stress, a degree of traumatization that negatively impacts brain and body development, causing long-term psychological and physical problems, like PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, even cardiovascular disease. This is not hypothetical. This is well-studied.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a formal position paper opposing Trump’s disgusting, lowly policy. Physician Colleen Kraft summarizes her thoughts:

“Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians – protecting and promoting children’s health. In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children.

“The new policy is the latest example of harmful actions by the Department of Homeland Security against immigrant families, hindering their right to seek asylum in our country and denying parents the right to remain with their children. We can and must do better for these families. We can and must remember that immigrant children are still children; they need our protection, not prosecution.”

The American Psychological Association has also written a letter to the Trump administration, citing the mental health crisis that the separation policy has triggered. Their letter states:

“On behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), we are writing to express our deep concern and strong opposition to the Administration’s new policy of separating immigrant parents and children who are detained while crossing the border….Based on empirical evidence of the psychological harm that children and parents experience when separated, we implore you to reconsider this policy and commit to the more humane practice of housing families together pending immigration proceedings to protect them from further trauma.”

It’s really, really clear that this administration has gone to new, harmful lows. But what can we do about it?


Petition to Donald Trump to stop separating families at the border:

Petition to the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families at the border:

Petition to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families at the border:


KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance children who would otherwise stand in court alone.

The Florence Project is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to political detainees, including children, in Arizona.

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to refugees feeling violence seeking safety here int he U.S.

RAICES is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to detainees and refugees, including children, in Texas.

Al Otro Lado is a binational nonprofit that provides legal assistance to families who have been separated, navigating the legal systems of Mexico and the United States to bring them back together. They also help deportees who have been abandoned in Mexico with resources including medical care.


Families Belong Together is organizing rallies and protests in opposition to separating families at the border. Check out their website to see what’s happening next near you.


This is actually one of the most powerful things you can do. Call your representatives using any of the below easy methods. You’ll probably get an answering machine, but if you get the machine or a person, say “My name is (your name) and I am opposed to separating families at the border. I am from (your zip code) in (your state). I do not need a response.”:

Find your representatives in the House and then find their office phone number, and call.

Find your representatives in the Senate  and then find their office phone number, and call.

Or just call the Capitol operator: 202-224-3121. This number will direct you to the Capitol switchboard. When you call, ask to be connected to your senator or representative. The operator will direct your call to their office.

Pending Legislation on this includes The Keep Families Together Act and The Help Separated Children Act .


Whichever of these relatively small actions you take, TALK about it, SHARE on social media, PUBLICIZE the cause. This is really powerful. Peruse the Twitter feed under #endfamilyseparation and #keepfamiliestogether and #childrenincages and share some of the posts.

WRITE: Doctors are blogging and writing about it. If that’s your thing, you can too. Or simply share this post, or another like it. Consider writing a letter to your editor, even if it’s a small town newspaper. Consider writing an op-ed for a news outlet. Consider posting on a political website, as Sanjiv Sriram, MD did. Consider writing a guest post for a blog. I accept guest posts at my own personal blog , by the way.

Whatever you do, don’t just stand there. Stand up.

Photo by Arwan Sutanto on Unsplash

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