Rescind Zero Tolerance and Unite immigrant Children with Families

For weeks our nation and elected officials have been in turmoil over the separation of children from their parents.  Most Americans are shocked and dismayed that children were separated from their parents and transported alone across the country to be placed in warehouse shelters, foster care, and military or prison type facilities.

These children came to our land seeking asylum from violence and despair. All want a safe place to live. All come afraid, with and without their mothers, fathers or relatives to protect them. Our government then proceeds to add to their trauma and treat them like criminals and trespassers and further demonizes them through a “zero-tolerance” policy that will impact their young lives forever.

We call for our government to immediately reunify the children with their family members, as further separation will be destructive to both the children and our nation. 

The actions against children are abhorrent and defy all knowledge of basic child care health and safety.  We call for expert bilingual child care providers to assist and support children awaiting reunification with their parents.  The damage we have done and are doing in our nation has long lasting effects on children who come to us seeking asylum from dangerous lands.

We are aware of the toxic impact this separation is having on the children and their parents. Dr. Mary Lou de Leon Siantz is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on migration and children.   Her research findings indicate that the children develop high levels of anxiety, fear, depression, loss of appetite and poor sleep patterns. The longer the separation the more intense the damage.  Dr. Siantz is a member of the NLCI Board of Directors and has written Living in Crisis: Latino Children Held Hostage. The statement is about the negative impact on children who are forcefully separated from their parent and held hostage.  The position was adopted unanimously by the NLCI Board of Directors. The position statement follows.

We demand that our government resolve this crisis now.  There is room in our nation for these children. There is also room in our hearts.

Living in Crisis: Latino Children
Held Hostage

Written by: Mary Lou de Leon Siantz PhD RN FAAN
National Latino Children's Institute
Member Board of Directors
Statement Adopted by NLCI Board of Directors

CHILDREN are mankind’s most precious resource and hope for its future. The current border crisis forces innocent immigrant children to endure separation from parents, institutionalization, and reunification in prisons during critical cognitive and developmental periods through no fault of their own. A process that ignores our fundamental values of justice, fairness, and equality negatively impacts their resilience, mental and physical health. It robs these children of the tools needed to build on their strengths, become productive citizens, and create healthy communities during their lifetime. Ultimately, we are depriving society of the future potential and contributions of its most vulnerable population, its children.

It is disgraceful that in today’s southwest border scenario, we are creating 21st Century orphanages as our Latino children are held hostage in warehouses, foster care, or prison settings. Many are located in undisclosed settings due to poorly conceived solutions to immigration policies that adversely influence immigrant children and parents, as they are placed with under prepared temporary and in some cases permanent caregivers. Expert consensus has established the negative consequences of stress in the first months and years of life through adolescence from traumatic early childhood experiences like the separation and loss that these border children endure. Institutionalization with underprepared caregivers and the disorganized reunification process in prisons that currently exists will continue to haunt their future.

Read full statement >>

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