Expert Says Border Patrol Can ‘Increase’ Migrant Child’s Risk of Disease: ‘Toxic Stress’

California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke said on Friday during a House Democrat discussion on migrant children that toxic stress “is to the 21st century what infectious disease was to the 20th century” and added that the actions of Border Patrol agents can increase or reduce a child’s risk of disease.

House Democrats held a “discussion” revolving around the Trump-induced stress on children — particularly child migrants — as part of the Health & Homeland Series titled “A Conversation on the Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Toxic Stress.” The discussion featured Obama administration Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin as well as Surgeon General of California Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who stated during the Q&A portion that Border Patrol agents must realize that their actions can “increase or reduce” a child’s risk of disease.

At the Q&A portion of the discussion, an individual asked if law enforcement officers bear responsibility on how they interact with migrant children on emotional levels.

“Do you have any comments on the responsibilities of just individuals — regardless of their clinical provider status of offering these types of interventions to the children?” the woman asked.

“I spoke specifically about providers, but I think that we can recognize that a public health approach to addressing the impacts of trauma and adversity has to be a cross-sector approach,” Burke stated, arguing that law enforcement — Border Patrol agents, specifically — “should be trained in trauma-informed care.”

Burke continued, arguing that “toxic stress” is the equivalent to “what infectious disease was to the 20th century” and added that Border Patrol agents can “increase or reduce” a child’s risk of disease. 

“I think that social determinates of health and specifically toxic stress is to the 21st century what infectious disease was to the 20th century,” she said.

She continued:

Which is the notion that this underlying sense– when we understand this fundamental premise – of how exposure to trauma and adversity affects –  fundamentally affects  – all of our health and well-being, then the purview of that knowledge is not just among medical and health providers. We all need to know that germs cause infection. That’s why we wash our hands and that’s why we cover our mouths when we cough right? And I think that border patrol probably knows that they should wash their hands and cover their mouth when they cough. They should also know that the way they interact with the young people can increase or reduce their risk of disease. [Emphasis added] 

Watch the entire event below:


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