Greater Protection for Immigration Sensitive Locations

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It's time to place a greater emphasis on sensitive locations to encourage the health and well-being of immigrant children.

My name is Hayden, and I am a graduate student of occupational therapy. Throughout my journey towards becoming an occupational therapist, I have become increasingly aware of the importance for individuals to feel they are independent, contributing members of society. At the heart of this concept is the successful performance of daily occupations. Occupations are the purposeful tasks we participate in every day that provide our lives with meaning and fulfillment. These tasks may include cooking meals to sustain your health and/or maintaining a job to provide for yourself or your family. In order to do all these things, access to healthcare is especially important.

The above picture is of 10-year old Rosa Maria Hernandez. In late October 2017, Rosa and her cousin, a U.S. citizen, traveled to Corpus Christi, Texas for emergency gallbladder surgery. Upon arrival at the border, border patrol insisted on escorting the ambulance to the hospital and monitoring Rosa during her stay. Despite being a sensitive location, Rosa was ultimately detained at the hospital following her surgery and transported to a juvenile center where she would potentially wait for deportation.

As defined by the Department of Homeland Security, “sensitive locations” include schools, hospitals, and places of worship. The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act explains enforcement actions at these locations is typically avoided and requires either prior approval from a “supervisory official” or be labeled as a situation in need of immediate action (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2016). Despite not fitting the image of a situation “in need of immediate action,” Rosa’s story is not an isolated incident, but rather an example of the situation immigrant children often find themselves in when seeking medical care.

Research has found these situations have both negative physical and emotional effects on children. “Young detainees may experience developmental delays and poor psychological adjustment” (Dudly, et al., 2012). This becomes increasingly important when thinking about how this affects a child’s performance in school – an especially prominent occupation during a child’s developmental years. Other, more emotional, effects young detainees may experience include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Bailey, 2011). These long-term mental health risks pose an especially concerning trajectory for a child’s development.

By placing a greater emphasis on sensitive locations, we are essentially allowing children the opportunity to access the resources they need to maintain their health and well-being, while deterring them from the negative path mentioned above. Potential solutions may include further investigations of policy violations and improved education for border patrol agents on the boundaries imposed through the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act. These two things in themselves have the potential to 1) prevent children from falling victim to situations such as Rosa’s and 2) help children avoid having to decide between medical care and deportation. 

By signing this petition, you are illustrating your commitment to encouraging the successful occupational development of children like Rosa through emphasis on sensitive locations and their promise to protect children in need. Thank you.



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