FCAAP, AAP, First Focus, and 70 Child Advocacy Organizations Call on Gov. DeSantis to Protect Immigrant Children

Dec 20, 2021 | Press Releases


Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics, First Focus, and 70 Other Child Advocacy Organizations Call on Gov. DeSantis to Protect Immigrant Children

View Full Letter HERE

TALLAHASSEE, FL (December 20, 2021) — Today, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), First Focus, and 70 other organizations from Florida and around the country sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis urging him to withdraw an executive order that endangers the health and well-being of thousands of immigrant children.

The organizations write Gov. DeSantis: “As organizations based in Florida and around the country, we urge you to safeguard the health, safety, and well-being of unaccompanied children by continuing to license shelters that care for them, regardless of whether or not the state has an agreement with the federal government.”

Gov. DeSantis’ order requires the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to determine whether the state should continue to license shelters and foster families serving unaccompanied children. The order resulted in an emergency rule by DCF stating that there is no need to continue to license facilities for unaccompanied children, and that it would only do so if the federal government enters into an agreement with Florida to do so. In practice, this policy will deny children safe, temporary housing in the state of Florida. To deny state licenses for
residential providers who care for unaccompanied children is to deny state oversight of the safe operation of these facilities. And, revoking the ability of foster homes to be state licensed denies families the ability to provide family-based care for these vulnerable children.

Florida and national child advocacy groups including medical providers, child welfare groups, resettlement agencies, and faith communities said unequivocally in the letter to the governor that the order undermines children’s need for safe placements, disrupts their connection to family, and disregards laws that codified the proper care of unaccompanied children.

The below organizations are among the 73 total who have signed on to the letter:

• The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
• The American Academy of Pediatrics
• First Focus for Children
• ACLU of Florida
• Florida Immigrant Coalition
• Florida Policy Institute
• Florida Association of School Nurses
• Florida PTA
• The Alcee L. Hastings Broward Black Jewish Alliance
• Sant La Haitian Community Center
• Florida Asian Services

“Any pediatrician who has worked with immigrant children knows we cannot afford to play politics with their health and safety,” said Dr. Lisa Gwynn, MD, president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP). “Securing a stable environment is crucial to the wellbeing of all kids, especially those who have just endured the long and difficult journey to the United States. By needlessly creating obstacles to securing temporary homes for migrant children, the governor’s order will cause irreparable harm – not only to these children, but to our entire community. We urge the governor to rescind this emergency order and work with us to help these children, not further marginalize them.”

“There are few things as important to the wellbeing of children as shelter and stability,” said Dr. Lee Beers, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “By undermining access to
stable, state-licensed shelters and foster homes for immigrant children, this order puts vulnerable children at higher risk of harm. The disruption that the order creates targets immigrant children, many of whom have parents and family members in Florida. Instead of putting their health at risk, we urge policymakers at all levels of government to protect and promote the health and safety of immigrant children.”

“Once again, governors are putting forward policies that harm children, rather than protect their best interests,” said Miriam Abaya, First Focus on Children Senior Director for Immigration and
Children’s Rights. “We joined other child advocates to protest a similar order in Texas because our country can and must make children central to our policies, regardless of who they are or where they come from. What is best for unaccompanied children is what’s best for all children experiencing separation from family: Placement in family- and community-based, state-licensed settings with access to trained, trauma-informed professionals until they can be safely reunited with family.”

An April poll by the Associated Press (AP) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) of Chicago found that the majority of Americans agree that the federal government’s highest immigration priority should be to provide safe treatment for unaccompanied children at the border. The American people also agree that every government policy should be governed by a “best interest of the child” standard. Such public opinion data shows Gov. DeSantis’ actions directly contradict public support for state and federal policies that advance child safety and well-being.

The full letter can be found here.

Media Contact:

Melanie Range, Director of Communications & Events
Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics or 850-224-3939

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