Office of Children and Family Services

News Article
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Governor Cuomo Demands the Trump Administration Release Information on Remaining Separated Children in New York

Governor Demands Information so that New York Can Help Reunite Children With Their Families
 
As Trump Administration Approaches Court-Imposed Deadline to Reunite Children, Governor Condemns Shameful Federal Incompetence and Obstruction of Information
 
ACLU Reports at Least 900 Parents Will Not Be Reunified With Their Children by the Deadline
 
State Will Work With Counsel Generals and Advocacy Organizations to Identify Separated Children in New York and Reunite Them With Their Families
 
Earlier this Month, Governor Led Multi-State Coalition in Suing the Trump Administration to Stop Family Separation Policy & Demanding Answers From Federal Government Concerning the Reunification of Immigrant Families Separated at the Border
 
 
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today demanded information on the remaining separated children in New York to help reunite them with their families. With the Trump Administration apparent inability to meet today's court-imposed deadline for reunification, the Governor is demanding the federal government permit shelter facilities to share information with the State to facilitate reunification and provide critical services to any families returning to or remaining in New York post reunification. New York will work with counsel generals and local advocacy organizations to identify separated children and help in the reunification effort.
 
"The federal government's failure to reunify separated families is either gross incompetence or a purposeful gauntlet of pain, but either way it is despicable and illegal. Children have rights, parents have rights, and that is the law," Governor Cuomo said. "There is an old adage 'trust but verify' - with this federal government, we don't trust and we demand verification. If the federal government cannot uphold its legal responsibility to reunite families, we have a moral obligation to step in. I demand that the federal government provide information on which children are still in New York immediately so we help return them to their families as soon as possible."
 
Documents from litigation show that more than 900 parents were determined to be ineligible for reunification by the federal government although they are protected by the ruling and should have been reunified by the deadline. Further, the federal government has admitted that more than 400 parents are no longer in the country, many of them as a result of deportation without legal counsel and before opportunity for reunification. These reports clearly demonstrate that the government will not meet the deadline despite what federal officials have asserted.
 
Given the federal government's clear disregard of the judicially mandated reunification deadline and lack of concern for the hundreds of children that remain without their parents, the State must step in and provide assistance and care to any children who remain in New York State. At the Governor's direction, the Department of State, Office of Children and Family Services, the Department of Health and other relevant state agencies have the appropriate jurisdiction, relevant expertise and stand ready to assist in reunification efforts and provide health and mental health care, legal services, language access assistance and other resources to the impacted children and families.
 
Congressman Eliot Engel said, "The President's cruel 'zero-tolerance' policy has been a disaster from minute one. Tearing families apart at the border was abhorrent and disgraceful. But what's just as disgraceful has been this Administration's complete inability to answer even the most basic questions we have posed regarding how and when family reunification is supposed to take place. Despite repeated requests from myself, my House colleagues, Governor Cuomo, and Democrats in every level of government, we have gotten few, if any, answers from Administration officials. What we do know is that they failed to meet the first court ordered date to reunite families, and now we're told up to 900 children will remain in federal custody tonight as the second deadline comes and goes. This type of ineptitude is staggering, even from this President and his team. We need to pass my Central America Family Protection and Reunification Act which requires the State Department to prioritize supporting governments and citizens to facilitate immediate family reunification."
 
Congressman José E. Serrano said, "Far too many children remain separated from their parents based on the policies of the Trump Administration. Today's court imposed deadline is going to pass with hundreds still separated from their parents, in some cases because parents have been deported. These children have been away from their families and loved ones for too long, and they are being traumatized as a result. The chaos and trauma created by the Trump Administration's immigration policies attack our core values. The federal government needs to fully uphold the law, and make available all necessary information to facilitate the family reunification process."
 
Efforts to Protect Immigrant Children and Challenge the Zero Tolerance Policy
 
This latest action builds on the state's comprehensive efforts to challenge the federal government's callous "zero tolerance" policy and protect immigrant children. Earlier this month, the Governor led a multi-state coalition including Washington, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Oregon in issuing a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen demanding answers concerning the reunification of immigrant families separated at the border.
 
The Governor, along with State Attorney General Underwood announced a multistate lawsuit with 18 other states to challenge the policy. Following Governor Cuomo's pledge on June 19 to file the suit, New York joined the multistate lawsuit which was filed by the Attorneys General of Washington, Massachusetts, California, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, North Carolina, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
 
Last month, after the Governor demanded information from HHS, the federal government revealed there are at least 1292 unaccompanied minors currently being cared for in New York, information that is not comprehensive and remains unverified. 
 
Governor Cuomo signed legislation to increase protections for immigrant children who have been separated from their families as a result of the Trump Administration's zero tolerance policy. The legislation provides parents who have been detained in New York, or are facing deportation from the state, an opportunity to appoint someone of their choosing to step into their shoes and provide emergency care for their child.
 
The Governor also announced 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 is:
 
  • making available personnel, resources and services to foster care providers that are caring for these children, including medical supplies,
  • ensuring legal representation is available to all unaccompanied children and parents who need it,
  • providing services for immigrant children discharged from facilities to family members or private foster care providers in New York, including education, mental health and health care services,
  • demanding 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,
  • taking actions to support family reunification, including working with counsel generals at facilities to provide immediate support, and
  • providing resources and protection to bolster public safety at facilities caring for immigrant children. 

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