Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State will be providing a broad array of services and resources for unaccompanied minor children, including immigrant children that have separated from their parents as a result of the inhumane federal Government zero tolerance policy. New York State will:
- Dispatch personnel, resources and services to foster care providers that are caring for these children, including medical supplies.
- Provide services for immigrant children discharged from facilities to family members, including education, mental health and health care services.
- Provide the same support to children being released to private foster care providers in New York, including from other states.
- Demand HHS release information about all unaccompanied immigrant children in New York State, including those who were first sent from the border to other states before being placed in New York.
- Take actions to support family reunification, including working with counsel generals at facilities to provide immediate support.
- Provide resources and protection to bolster public safety at facilities caring for immigrant children.
After the Governor originally demanded information from HHS, the federal government revealed there are at least 1292 unaccompanied minors currently being cared for in New York, but this information is not comprehensive and remains unverified.
"The Trump Administration's separation of immigrant families is either an historic example of gross incompetence of government or a political tactic that would make Machiavelli blush," Governor Cuomo said. "New York is intervening to do everything that we can to help the children who are separated and the larger populations of immigrant children in our state."
New Resources for Children in Foster Care Providers
Recognizing the unique needs of these impacted children, the State will deploy additional resources to ensure the proper care of unaccompanied immigrant children in foster care providers. The State will work with providers to make available medical resources and support and enhanced mental health services for the children at these facilities.
New Services for Children Who Have Been Discharged
The State will also provide new services to aid immigrant children who have been discharged from New York State facilities and from other states to family members and private foster care providers who may not have adequate resources to support the unique needs of these children. Social workers will be dispatched to work with the unaccompanied children and the sponsor families to provide:
- Group and individual counseling;
- Information and referral services to assist families with meeting their needs including health and mental health services;
- Peer support groups;
- Assistance with educational and language services;
- Education and prevention activities related to human trafficking and gang violence.
In addition, the State will expand services under the first-in-the nation Liberty Defense Project to ensure that all children who have been separated and discharged to family or sponsors in New York State have access to legal representation.
All children in New York State under the age of 21 who have not graduated from high school have a right to enroll in public school in the school district in which they reside. Early school enrollment and regular attendance is key to the successful integration of new immigrant children arriving in New York. Resources will be targeted to community based organizations to help guardians navigate the enrollment process and provide continued support on how to support their child's educational progress regardless of their own linguistic abilities, literacy, or educational background.
These services will be provided in collaboration with the Office of New Americans Opportunity Centers. ONA Opportunity Centers partner with other community-based and government agencies to coordinate and/or host additional programming and support for new American communities. These sites are the focal point for communities to embrace New Americans by volunteering their valuable time to support newcomers. ONA has experience liaising with immigrant communities across the state and will draw on its expertise to ensure that sponsor families are aware of the services available to them.
Demands HHS Provide Comprehensive, Verified Information on Children in New York
Governor Cuomo previously demanded HHS release information on immigrant children being housed in New York as a result of the Family Separation Policy. The Governor today demanded HHS immediately provide the comprehensive number of children that have been placed in foster care facilities, foster families or with sponsors, including those who were first sent to other states before being placed in New York.
Efforts to Reunite Children with Families
New York State will engage the facilities' counsel generals to provide immediate support in reuniting children with family in the United States. The Governor previously announced a lawsuit, which among other actions, aims to stop family separation and ensure due process for immigrant families.
Public Safety Resources
Finally, with new, unforeseen attention on these facilities caring for children, the State is also providing the facilities with resources to support public safety.
"As a result of failed federal immigration policies under the Trump Administration, innocent children are being torn apart from their families at the border and many are being placed in facilities in New York," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We are committed to providing these facilities with the funding and resources they need to properly provide and care for these children as they face this difficult situation. New York will not tolerate the Trump Administration's violation of immigrants' constitutional rights, and we will continue to fight against these inhumane measures to end this tragedy."
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "As a pediatrician, I am deeply concerned about the long-lasting physical and emotional impacts of the Federal Administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. As the New York State Commissioner of Health, I am proud to work with a Governor that recognizes this practice is unacceptable and something needs to be done. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, I will do everything in my power to protect the health and well-being of these children."
"I commend Governor Cuomo for standing up for these children. They need and deserve our support through this traumatic time of family separation," said Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. "We are committed to the safety and well-being of every child in New York State, regardless of their immigration status."
Steven Choi, New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director, said, "With these latest appalling actions to separate children from their families, the federal government has taken yet another inhumane action in its abysmal track record on immigrant rights. The New York Immigration Coalition commends Governor Cuomo for taking concrete steps to help these children, and we stand ready to do whatever we can to assist."
Kathleen Brady-Stepien, Associate Executive Director, Upstate, Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, said, "These children have already experienced undue stress and trauma and we must ensure they receive the best possible care to address their needs and support their health and wellbeing. By ensuring that these resources are available Governor is giving the critical, necessary support to help these children and I applaud him for his efforts."