Health Care Organizations Join the Academy in Sending Letter to DHS

A group of more than a dozen health organizations has joined the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in strongly encouraging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure the mental and physical well-being of children affected by its immigration policy. The organizations sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, expressing concerns about children and the long-term impact on their mental and physical well-being. The Academy previously sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the mental and physical well-being of children affected by its immigration policy on June 22.

June 29, 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 sixteen national organizations dedicated to promoting the health of children and families, we write 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 include access to appropriate food and nutrition, as well as access to medical care, 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. We strongly encourage 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, DHS should identify those with special health care needs and provide appropriate treatment according to evidence-based guidelines for care.

Furthermore, it is important that DHS's management of facilities and the care of children and adolescents be transparent to the public. We ask 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.

Finally, while the most immediate need is for detained immigrant children and their families to have access to critical health resources including nutrition, relevant healthcare and medical resources, and breastfeeding, indefinite detention of families is not an acceptable long-term solution to child detainment. The best — and safest — place for these children is with their families and in their communities, where they have more adequate access to healthcare, nutrition and breastfeeding, in particular by referring to WIC clinics where they should receive these vital services safely and without risk. There are alternatives to detention that are far more humane for immigrant children and their families, and far less costly for the administration. Our country has a system in place to process asylum claims, and these families should be allowed to go through this legal process.

Thank you for your consideration regarding these important issues.

Sincerely,

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
California Food Policy Advocates
California Immigrant Policy Center
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Right
Colorado Children's Campaign
Community Clinic Consortium of Contra Costa and Solano Counties
Family Health - Bronx Health REACH
First Focus
National Immigration Law Center
National WIC Association
Society for Reproductive Investigation
The Children's Partnership
Tisch Food Center