As Congress debates reforming the nation’s immigration system, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is issuing a call to support the health and well-being of immigrant children, infants, adolescents and young adults.
The AAP policy statement, “Providing Care for Immigrant, Migrant, and Border Children
,” will be published in the June 2013 print issue of Pediatrics and is published online May 6. The statement updates a previous policy dating to 2005 and reflects the large changes in immigrant status since that time.
One in four children in the U.S. lives in an immigrant family, representing roughly 18.4 million children. Immigrant populations are diverse, but many children in immigrant families face significant challenges to their health and well-being, including poverty, lack of health insurance
, low educational attainment, substandard housing, and language barriers.
“Immigrant children represent a particularly vulnerable population,” said Gonzalo J. Paz-Soldan, MD, FAAP, one of the lead authors of the AAP policy statement and a member of the AAP Council on Community Pediatrics. “The AAP believes ensuring these children have access to health care and are protected from the effects of exposure to toxic stress is critical to their long-term development.”
According to the AAP policy statement, “It’s in the national interest that we work to ensure that all children within the United States, including immigrant, border and migrant children, grow up physically and developmentally healthy. The future prosperity and well-being of the United States depends on the health and vitality of all of its children, without exception.”
The AAP recommends:
- Every child, including immigrant children, should have access to health care.
- Barriers to children’s enrollment in health insurance should be removed regardless of immigration status.
- Language interpretation for medical services should be available and should be covered by insurance.
- Pediatricians should be knowledgeable about the unique emotional, behavioral, mental and physical health advantages and problems that may be faced by immigrant children. Appropriate screening should be incorporated into health care visits.
- A health care facility or patient’s medical record should not be used in any immigration enforcement action.
- Separation of a child from his or her family should be avoided whenever possible.
- No child should self-represent at immigration proceedings.
- Pediatricians can play a key role in helping immigrant parents assess the educational progress of their child, and access intervention services when necessary.
As immigration reform proposals advance on Capitol Hill, the AAP has been advocating its priorities to Congress and urging them to consider the needs of immigrant children. To date, the AAP has shared policy recommendations with leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and is leading efforts in Washington to call attention to the needs of immigrant children.
“The mission of the American Academy of Pediatrics is to protect the health and well-being of all children, and pediatricians will hold Congress to this same standard as they work on immigration reform legislation,” said AAP President Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP. “All children—no matter where they or their parents were born—have the right to access health care, remain united with their families and pursue a high-quality education. As Congress works to pass immigration reform legislation, the needs of immigrant children must not be overlooked.”