Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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City Prepares for Influx of Child Immigrants from Central America

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TWC News: City Prepares for Influx of Child Immigrants from Central America
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The city is working on a coordinated response to address the influx of unaccompanied migrant children arriving from Central America. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Across the country, there have been reports of angry protesters greeting some of the child migrants who've recently been crossing the border by the tens of thousands.

Here in the city, though, both officials and private organizations have been much more accommodating.

New York State has a history and a tradition of being a welcoming state that's opened its arms to newcomers from foreign shores," says Steven Choi of the New York Immigration Coalition.

A coalition of public officials and private organizations Wednesday discussed what they've done to prepare for the surge of children from Central America, including establishing a special task force of city agencies.

"We're really eager to assist these children in whatever ways we can and we'll continue to develop strategies," says Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal.

"We have medical, legal, mental health and social services right there for the kids," says Dr. Alan Shapiro of Terra Firma.

They say federal authorities have already sent nearly 3,300 children to New York to stay with relatives or guardians as the children await legal proceedings.

Officials expect 7,000 more to arrive in the coming months.

That doesn't include the children who are entering the country undetected.

City educators, doctors and lawyers all emphasized that many—if not most—of the young migrants they've seen have experienced some sort of trauma.

"We have students who have been trafficked, who have been brought here by coyotes and are $15,000 in debt," says Claire Sylvan of the International Network of Public Schools.

"I had a patient show up in my clinic who had a bullet lodged in his back because he was caught in the crossfire from rival gangs," Shapiro says.

"Girls, we have learned—over 50 percent have suffered some kind of sexual trauma or abuse in their homeland or on their trip to the United States," says Mario Russell of Catholic Charities, NY.

Throughout their remarks, the coalition members made an effort to counter the anti-immigration rhetoric that has been a big part of the debate nationally.

It's a message the mayor emphasized Monday, when speaking from the Vatican. He said he wanted to emphasize that the city will follow the Pope's example and, "embrace all immigrants."

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