Hundreds of physicians and healthcare workers from across the country are expected to march to the White House this weekend to protest the Trump administration’s “inhumane” treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.
On Friday morning, dozens of physicians with Doctors for Camp Closure, a grassroots organization that sprang up in response to reports on the poor conditions of migrant detention centers in the U.S., made their way to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress in a bid to convince them to demand the closure of detention “camps.”
The doctors are calling for the country to move towards an “alternative to detention” (ATD) program that would allow asylum seekers to wait in the U.S. outside of detention under the care of a sponsor as their immigration cases are processed.
On Saturday, they will take their message directly to the White House, with hundreds of physicians, including some who have made their way from as far as California, joining the march.
Dr. Marie DeLuca, an emergency physician from New York City who helped co-found Doctors for Camp Closure, told Newsweek that many doctors and medical health professionals across the country were horrified by the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“I’m in a field where we see a lot of shocking things,” she said. The physician said that when she and other healthcare practitioners saw the fallout of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, as well as reports on concerns about the way migrant detainees were being treated, there was a shared “visceral feeling of horror.”
“There’s such a visceral reaction of horror that I get,” she said. “In the emergency department, I have the tools to act and try to fix that, but as a physician in the U.S., right now, it’s so hard to find those tools [to help migrant detainees] because of the policies that have been created.”
While DeLuca maintained that Doctors for Camp Closure is a bipartisan initiative, she said that physicians were also concerned about the Trump administration’s current “Remain in Mexico” policy, which sees migrants and asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico as their immigration cases are processed in the U.S.
“The recent policy decision to keep people on the other side of the border is just dangerous,” DeLuca said.
Meanwhile, she said, “deportations are putting people back into dangerous situations. All of that is a human rights violation and it’s not ethical and we know the type of toll this can take.”
“We’re physicians and we’ve seen what can happen with people when they deal with psychological stressors and physiological stressors like this, so we know the harm this is going to do and we know this has to end,” she said.
Fellow Doctors for Camp Closure co-founder Danielle Deines, a pediatrician from Roanoke, Virginia, told Newsweek that she hopes Saturday’s march will remind the government that the U.S. has not forgotten about the plight of asylum seekers, even as the national focus on the U.S.-Mexico border has appeared to waver in recent weeks.