Statement from the WSPA Board of Trustees on Recent Immigration Policy Changes


This post has been updated 6/20/18 to reflect the most recent Executive Order continuing indefinite detention of immigrant children and families.

The Washington State Psychological Association is adamantly opposed to the current Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy involving the lengthy detention of immigrant children and families in federal facilities after attempts to cross the U.S. border, applied to even those seeking asylum–and relatedly, the other recent immigration policy shift stating that domestic and/or gang violence are not legitimate reasons to seek asylum.  As psychologists, we find these policies unacceptable, given the significant risks for exploitation and victimization such experiences confer on already-vulnerable children—especially those who have been separated from their parents—and the tremendous and often irreparable emotional burden these forced fractures place on families who are often already exposed to significant mental and physical trauma.  Psychologists have long understood the ways in which children are uniquely vulnerable to trauma, and research findings are clear that even brief trauma can continue to have adverse effects across the lifespan.  We join our colleagues in esteemed national organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the National Latina/o Psychological Association in condemning these policies based on a large body of scientific research on the impact of migration, family separation, and trauma throughout the lifespan. By the latest Executive Order, which is yet to be implemented and which seeks to extend detention of children indefinitely, families are now allowed to remain together in federal detention centers; however, over 2,300 children nationally have already been separated from their parents with no clear plans for reunification.

WSPA’s mission is to promote the psychological well-being of all Washington residents, through education, clinical service, and advocacy.  As a proud member of the Refugee Mental Health Network, we are appalled by reports that over 200 asylum seekers, including many parents separated from their children, are currently being held in a federal prison in SeaTac, Washington.  We fully support the efforts of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and our elected representatives in their efforts to resolve this situation.

Our emphatic rejection of the current policy is consistent with our mission as an organization and our Code of Ethics as psychologists, and reflects the value we place on respect for the rights and dignities of all people, not only as psychologists, but as Americans. We are proud of our collective national history as a refuge to those in need that is enhanced, not diminished, by diversity. We stand with organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Office and Physicians for Human Rights in recognizing these harmful experiences as an issue of fundamental human rights.  Justice and respect for all people are our most closely held values as psychologists, Americans, and human beings, and we resolutely believe U.S. immigration policy should reflect those values.

Read the Executive Order here:

Ways to help

We urge you to call your members of Congress ( and let them know of your opposition to these policies.

Below is a list of organizations working to support refugees separated from their families.

*Please note that this is not an exhaustive list nor does WSPA have any formal alliance with any of the groups.  We encourage everyone to thoroughly research the causes they support.

Refugees Northwest provides mental health and physical evaluations, emergency food, and basic needs for asylum-seekers; read more about their work on behalf of asylum-seekers, asylees, and refugees, and how to help, on

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families.  Donate to their fund for legal representation, education, and advocacy for unaccompanied minors here:

American Immigration Lawyers Association provides pro-bono services to represent women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation.

CARA—a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—provides pro-bono legal services at family detention centers.

Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.

Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests.

The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights works for the rights of children in immigration proceedings.

The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project provides legal services and works to prevent the deportation of those fleeing violence.

Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.