Academy Letter Urges DHS to Ensure Well-Being of Children and Families Affected by Immigration Policy

June 22, 2018

The Honorable Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

On behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I am writing to express concerns about children affected by immigration policy and the long-term impact on their mental and physical well-being. Particular areas of concern for the Academy continue to be ensuring that food and nutrition requirements are met, and access to medical care provided, for families who are placed in temporary detention facilities or care provider facilities.

Children and adolescents placed in these facilities, whether administered by governmental or non-governmental organizations, should be reunited with their families as soon as possible. To promote optimal physical, cognitive, and social growth and development, they should have access to an adequate supply of healthful and safe foods and clean drinking water. The Academy strongly encourages the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that meals meet nutrition standards established by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

For infants, exclusive breast-feeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life, and breast-feeding with complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern. Accordingly, the Academy requests that breast-feeding infants continue to have access to milk from their mothers in all situations.

Upon children's entry into temporary care or detention facilities, the Academy encourages DHS to identify those with special health care needs and to provide appropriate treatment according to evidence-based guidelines for care. Nutrition services provided by registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetic technicians, registered are essential components of comprehensive care for children and youth with special health needs.

Finally, the Academy asks that DHS's management of facilities and the care of children and adolescents be transparent to the public. The Academy asks DHS to share with the public how food and nutrition requirements are met, and how access to care is provided, for families who are placed in the facilities.

Thank you for your consideration regarding these important issues.

Sincerely,

Mary Russell, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND
President, 2018-2019