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Minnesota Public Health Association

Since 1907, MPHA has been dedicated to creating a healthier Minnesota through effective public health practice and engaged citizens. 

Resolution on Immigrant Children, Youth, and Families

January 09, 2019 9:04 AM | Anonymous

WHEREAS, the largest proportion of the population of the United States of America is composed of people whose ancestors immigrated to this country from other lands1;

WHEREAS, immigrants to the United States, categorized as foreign-born in the U.S. Bureau of the Census reports, are a diverse group including both documented and undocumented individuals who make up 13.5% of the current population2. Immigrants and their U.S born children constitute 86.4 million people, or 27% of the overall U.S population. The population of foreign-born children has decreased by 21% between 2000 and 2016, from 2.7 million to 2.1 million3.

WHEREAS, Minnesota's first large groups of immigrants arrived from Europe, primarily Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and Germany. Today, the majority of Minnesota's immigrants arrive from Mexico, India, Laos, and Somalia. Between 2010 and 2016, Minnesota has had a 20% increase in immigrant population growth3. About 8% of Minnesota's residents are immigrants, and 7% are native-born U.S citizens with at least one immigrant parent4.

WHEREAS, the experience of immigration has immediate implications for the psychological, health and social well-being of individuals and families5 which are especially intense for children, people of color, people of the impoverished socioeconomic classes1, as well as women7, lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons8, and individuals with disabilities;

WHEREAS, as of May 2018, over 10,000 immigrant children have been separated from their parents and/or family members as part of the current immigration policy towards undocumented individuals entering the US at the border. Of those, almost 1,500 have gone missing from the homes of their caregivers. Instead of detaining families together, ICE has been mobilized to separate children from families;

WHEREAS, separating children from their parents exposes them to trauma and toxic stress that can have lifelong negative impacts on their mental and physical health. As noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), exposing children to traumatic events and prolonged or toxic stress such as separation from a parent disrupts a child’s healthy development and can lead to physiologic changes that result in short- and long-term negative effects on physical, mental, and behavioral health9-19;

WHEREAS, detention, for even brief periods, has short- and long-term negative effects on the health of parents and children. Studies show high levels of psychiatric distress, including depression and post-traumatic stress, among detained asylum seekers, even after short detention periods, and that symptoms worsen over time20, 21;

WHEREAS, the separation of a child from his/her/their parent or family member/caregiver, constitutes an Adverse Childhood Experience, or a significant trauma experienced by an individual before the age of 18. Adverse Childhood Experiences, or childhood trauma, has been shown in numerous studies to substantially increase the risk of mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes long term10-19;

WHEREAS, Adverse Childhood Experiences have been strongly correlated to increased levels of mental health outcomes (depression, suicide, addiction and substance abuse), chronic health conditions (obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease), and significant effects on economic potential (educational attainment, lost productivity, future income growth)22-23;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Minnesota Public Health Association urges the government of the United States to revoke and reverse the current policy of separating migrant, undocumented, or immigrant children from their parents. Regardless of how they come into the United States of America, they are first and foremost children, and human beings, deserving of care, dignity, and respect.

  1. Fix, M., & Passel, J. S. (1994). Immigration and immigrants: Setting the record straight. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
  2. Census Bureau's 2010 and 2016 American Community Survey (ACS)
  3. Jeanne Batalova and Elijah Alperin, "Immigrants in the U.S. States with the Fastest-Growing Foreign-Born Populations," Migration Policy Institute, (July 10, 2018).
  4. Immigrants in Minnesota Fact Sheet, 2017, American Immigration Council. Accessed on 10/14/2018.
  5. Beiser, M. (1988). After the door has opened: Mental health issues affecting immigrants and refugees in Canada. Ottawa: Health and Welfare Canada.
  6. Board on Children and Families, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, Institute of Medicine (1995). Immigrant children and their families: Issues for research and policy. The Future of Children, 5, 72-89.
  7. Yee, B. W. K. (1997). The social and cultural content of adaptation of aging among Southeast Asian elders. In J. Sokolovsky (Ed.), The cultural context of aging, 2nd Edition, New York: Greenwood Publishers.
  8. Espin, O. (1997). Crossing borders and boundaries: The life narratives of immigrant lesbians. In Greene, B. (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian and gay issues: Vol. 3. Ethnic and cultural diversity among lesbians and gay men (pp.191-215) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  9. Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP, “AAP Statement Opposing the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act,” American Academy of Pediatrics, (June 15, 2018), Accessed 7/19/2018. 
  10. Center on the Developing Child, NGA Center for Best Practices, and National Conference on State Legislatures, In Brief: The Impact of Early Adversity on Children’s Development, (Cambridge, MA: Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2015), content/uploads/2015/05/inbrief-adversity-1.pdf; Hillary A Franke, “Toxic Stress: Effects, Prevention and Treatment,” Children 1 (2014):390-402;
  11. Sara B Johnson, Anne W Riley, Douglas A Granger, and Jenna Riis, “The Science of Early Life Toxic Stress for Pediatric Practice and Advocacy,” Pediatrics 131, 2 (February 2013):319-327
  12. Jack P Shonkoff, Andrew S Garner, et. al., “The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress,” Pediatrics 129, 1 (2012):e232-e246;
  13. Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, et. al., “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science into Lifelong Health,” Pediatrics 129, 1(2012):e224-e231
  14. National Scientific Council on the Developing, Child Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development: Working Paper No. 9, (Cambridge, MA: National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2010),
  15. Jack P Shonkoff, W Thomas Boyce and Bruce S McEwen, “Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and the Childhood Roots of Health Disparities: Building a New Framework for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention,” Journal of the American Medical Association 301, 201 (2009):2252- 2259
  16. Jennifer S Middlebrooks and Natalie C Audage, The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan, (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2008), http://health-
  17. Stanley D Rosenberg, Weili Lu, Kim T Mueser, et. al., “Correlates of Adverse Childhood Events Among Adults with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders,” Psychiatric Services 58, 2 (2007): 245- 253
  18. Shanta R Dube, Robert F Anda, Vicent J Felitti, et. al., “Childhood Abuse, Household Dysfunction, and the Rise of Attempted Suicide Throughout the Life Span: Findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” JAMA 286, 24 (December 2001): 3089-3096;
  19. Vincent J Felitti, Robert F Anda, Dale Nordenberg, et. al., “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 14, 4 (1998):245-258.
  20. Janet Cleveland, Cecile Rousseau, and Rachel Kronick, The harmful effects of detention and family separation on asylum seekers’ mental health in the context of Bill C-31,” April 2012, al.pdf; Julie M. Linton, Marsha Griffin, Alan J. Shapiro, and Council on Community Pediatrics, “Detention of Immigrant Children,” Pediatrics, March 13, 2017,;,
  21. Wendy Cervantes, Family Detention: The Harmful Impact on Children, (Washington, DC: First Focus, December 8, 2015), harmful-impact-on-children.
  22. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Retrieved from: prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/adverse-childhood-experiences.
  23. Schilling, E., Aseltine, R., & Gore, S. (2007). Adverse childhood experiences and mental health in young adults: A longitudinal survey. BMC Public Health, 7, 30.

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