News Articles: Public News Articles

APBA Writes Officials About Immigration Policy

Tuesday, July 10, 2018  
Posted by: Gina Green

APBA sent the following letter to several U.S. government officials on July 10:


President Donald Trump – via

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security –

Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Health and Human Services –

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice – via


Sirs and Madam,


I am writing on behalf of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA), a nonprofit organization representing thousands of practitioners of applied behavior analysis, many of whom provide services to vulnerable individuals. Behavior analysis is a natural science of behavior interacting with environmental events. Those events include the behavior of others as well as physical aspects of the surroundings in which behaviors occur. Research and clinical work in the applied branch of our discipline have shown that environments have powerful effects on all kinds of human behavior, for good and for ill. For instance, when the environment provides ample opportunities and positive consequences for pro-social, productive behaviors, those behaviors increase. Environments that provide little positive reinforcement, on the other hand, foster behaviors like aggression, property destruction, withdrawal, and depression. The behavioral development of children and youths is particularly susceptible to such influences. 


Our profession’s code of ethics requires behavior analysts to protect vulnerable individuals from harm and advocate for the humane application of the principles of our discipline. Therefore we are compelled to object strongly to the federal government’s treatment of individuals who have been detained at our border with Mexico. We are especially concerned about the thousands of babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents who have been separated from their families. Evidence from our field complements and underscores research that has been summarized in letters and position statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and National Association of School Psychologists. That research clearly documents the pervasive, long-lasting deleterious effects of separations on the physical and behavioral health of children and their families. Those harms are compounded for migrant children and youths who are placed in environments that provide little, if any, positive reinforcement for pro-social behaviors. 


We strongly urge all federal agencies that are involved with the migrant families that have been separated to reunite those families immediately. Additionally, every effort must be made to keep all migrant families together unless there is incontrovertible objective evidence that parents are harming their children. All individuals in the U.S. must be afforded their legal rights to seek asylum or refugee status as well as their rights to due process and equal protection under the law. Families who are awaiting decisions on requests for asylum or refugee status should be released to relatives, friends, or the kind of community-based monitoring programs that have proved cost-effective for managing such cases. They must not be incarcerated in environments that have the characteristics of jails, prisons, cages, detention centers, or internment camps. That also applies to minors who arrived at the border unaccompanied by parents. Facilities in which they are kept must be licensed and have personnel and procedures in place to prevent abuse and to ensure that those minors have ample opportunities to develop social, communication, academic, and other productive skills. They must be staffed by personnel who know how to promote those skills, manage challenging behaviors without the use of psychotropic medications, and see that the minors’ behavioral and physical health needs are met. 


In closing, we implore you to rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and to make every effort to see that migrant families and unaccompanied minors are treated humanely, as all Americans would wish their families, relatives, and friends to be treated.  If we can provide any additional information, please contact me at




Gina Green, PhD, BCBA-D

Chief Executive Officer

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