NASW-CA Statement on Ethical Violations

No Possible Reason For Violating Confidentiality

As professional social workers, and our professional association NASW are shocked and outraged that the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and ICE have violated the confidentiality of mental health records to use information from therapy sessions to try and deport those held in detention and seeking asylum.

Professionals must hold the ethical standards above all else and resist claims of national security as the reason for violating those standards.  Psychologists who assisted and led the torture of 9/11 suspects have long justified their actions as keeping the country safe and saving American lives.  Professionals can keep the country safe, help those detained and maintain their ethical standards.

We do want immigrants in detention (minors or adults) to receive mental health treatment for obvious trauma from their country of origin and their journey here as well as for trauma while incarcerated.  That said, all therapists should protect their clients’ confidentiality by warning them in advance before starting treatment that anything they say can be used against them in immigration proceedings by ICE.  This is very similar when therapists tell their clients the exceptions to confidentiality such as reporting child and adult abuse, danger to self and others.  Any ethical therapist will take this into account and act professionally and accordingly.

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