Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
Dr. Howard Zucker, State Health commissioner (l. to r.); Kathleen Brady-Stepien, associate executive director, Upstate, Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies; Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Alphonso David, counsel to the governor; Sheila Poole, acting Commissioner, State Office of Children and Family Services; Steven Choi, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition.
By Forum Staff
The State has pledged to provide 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 federal government’s zero tolerance policy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.
According to the administration, the State will:
• Dispatch personnel, resources and services to foster care providers that are caring for the children, including medical supplies.
• Provide services for immigrant children discharged from facilities to sponsors or 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 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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.
Cuomo said the State will provide new services to aid immigrant children who have been discharged from 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 the 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.
The services will be provided in collaboration with the Office of New Americans Opportunity Centers, the governor noted. ONA Opportunity Centers partner with other community-based and government agencies to coordinate and/or host additional programming and support for new American communities.
“Remember, this is one of the issues that helped elect this President and it wouldn’t shock me if this was a politically motivated plan to once again turn up the heat and get his political supporters energized and make the November elections about the immigration issue,” Cuomo said. “It is one or the other. It was either a total gross incompetence by government because anyone had to understand the consequences of what they were doing. Or it was all politics and he wanted to generate a political issue for the campaign. Both are despicable. This is not a political issue. This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is not about liberals and conservatives. This is the basic question of how you treat children. It’s a question of humanity. It’s a question of values. It’s a question of decency.”
A federal judge in California on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to reunify immigrant children with their parents. Cuomo called the development “a victory for the families, for our values and for due process.”
“The order confirms what we already knew—the federal government’s abhorrent treatment of immigrant families is not only un-American, it is also a violation of their constitutional rights,” the governor added.