For Immediate Release

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Kari Jones, 510-433-2759

Nurses Condemn Policy that Led to Deaths of Children from Families Seeking Asylum

WASHINGTON - Following the death of an 8-year old Guatemalan boy who died while in U.S. custody in Alamogordo, NM on Christmas day, National Nurses United (NNU) today condemned Trump Administration policies that have led to the deaths of children whose families are seeking asylum in the U.S. from violence at home.

“Nurses, whose life work is to protect and heal, are appalled at the lack of humane treatment for vulnerable children, and their families, who are seeking refuge and safety in the U.S.,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of National Nurses United.

The death of the yet-to-be identified Guatemalan boy, following the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, also a Guatemalan, while in custody of the U.S. Border Patrol “demonstrates the deadly peril of a policy that is based on punishment rather than humanitarian assistance and compassion and understanding,” Castillo said.

NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network has been recruiting volunteer RNs who are available to go into what press reports have described as overcrowded, frequently cold facilities that have been known as “hierleras,” Spanish for ice boxes, as noted by the New York Times.

More than 1,100 RNs have already volunteered to deploy on a humanitarian mission through NNU’s RNRN program.

The Times report quoted one pediatrician warning of “shocking” conditions in which the children are being kept, without receiving adequate care, and subject to influenza, respiratory distress and dehydration.

“Our government must stop treating these families, and their children as criminals. The imagery of a migrant child dying on Christmas day is especially disturbing, but we need a policy of caring and compassion every day,” Castillo said.

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“As nurses, we know the dangers of poor conditions in incarceration, especially for vulnerable children who have already experienced the difficulty of a long arduous journey seeking safety in our country, often without prior access to medical care,” Castillo continued.

Castillo said the Trump Administration and the Border Patrol should “immediately end its practice of warehousing families and children in the ‘hierleras,’ make sure that all the families and children are provided safe and secure conditions while being considered for asylum, and guarantee that medical professionals are fully available to provide the ongoing professional medical assessment and needed care and support for them,” Castillo said.

A Human Rights Watch report in June remains an issue of great concern to NNU. According to the report, “poor medical treatment contributed to more than half the deaths reported by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a 16-month period.”

In a June letter to the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Department of Family and Protective Services, Castillo warned that it was extremely concerned about the welfare of these children” who were being warehoused in improper conditions.

“Many of the immigrant children … will already be suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion from their journey, as well as underlying health conditions related to poverty and poor living conditions. They have fled across harsh terrain, likely from places where they did not have access to medical care,” Castillo wrote.

She called on the departments “to confirm that they are set up in a humane manner that will ensure the health and safety of the children and youth.” 

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National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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