We are shocked and deeply disappointed by reports on the conditions and treatment of the nearly 2000 children that have been separated from their families at the border in just the past several weeks. United Ways of California urgently requests the Trump Administration to reverse its practice of separating children from their families at the border and take immediate steps to reunify any detained children with their parents.

Removing children from their parents can cause toxic stress that can impair brain development and cause lifelong harm, a fact well established by medical research. This is a primary reason the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and many other authoritative health organizations have called for an immediate end to this practice. Children need to be nurtured and raised by parents to feel and be safe and healthy, especially in times of upheaval and insecurity.

The U.S. would rightly decry this practice if employed by any other country. Simple decency requires that any government treat all people in custody humanely. U.S. law holds that children should only be removed from their parents pursuant to court order or a finding by local government health and social services professionals that children are at risk of imminent harm if they remain with their family. Ripping a child from the arms her/his mother goes against a child’s mental and physical well-being and is a clear violation of our values as Americans. Furthermore, reports indicate many migrant children are not granted or allowed an attorney to represent them in a court of law putting them at the mercy of a broken immigration system.

We note reports that children from families seeking asylum are among those separated from their families, though at this time it is not clear how many. Applying for asylum is a request for legal immigration and adjudication of rights under US law for families fleeing violence and persecution.

Accordingly, we call on the Administration to act quickly to halt this deeply distressing practice and immediately reunify children with their parents. A country as great as ours can surely find a more humane and effective way to treat people fleeing violence and persecution and seeking a better life for their families.