Activists and elected officials rallied Saturday near a Manhattan facility where some children who have been separated from their parents at the southern border are being held, demanding that the federal government provide a concrete plan for the kids to be reunified with their families.
"A society should be judged on how it treats its children! This president is a cruel, lying, immoral, evil man!" City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. "All of us will stand up and speak truth to power on behalf of these voiceless children!"
CHAOS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES TRYING TO REUNITE
Earlier this week, NY1 revealed that immigrant children detained at the southern border and separated from their families were being brought to the city.
City officials say at least 239 of children separated from their families were sent to a Cayuga Centers facility in East Harlem as a result of President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy towards people entering the country illegally.
The Trump administration announced plans in April to prosecute all immigrants caught along the southwest border who illegally enter the country. Parents were jailed and children were taken to government-contracted shelters.
In recent weeks, more than 2,300 children were taken from their families under the policy and transported across the nation, at times thousands of miles away from their detained parents. Some of the children, for example, have been sent to foster care agencies in New York City.
After international condemnation and backlash from some members of his own party, Trump on Wednesday ordered that children no longer be separated. The administration says it will continue with prosecutions and seek to detain families together during their immigration proceedings. That move has also sparked an outcry from women's and children's advocates who say children don't belong in jail.
Immigration officials have said they could seek up to 15,000 beds in family detention facilities, and the Pentagon is drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 unaccompanied immigrant children on military bases.
The Trump administration is also seeking changes to a decades-old settlement governing the detention of immigrant children to try to be able to keep children with their parents in custody for longer periods of time.
Under a previous class-action settlement that set policies for the treatment and release of minors caught at the border, families can only be detained for 20 days. A senior Justice Department official said that hasn't changed.
"This is a stopgap measure," Gene Hamilton, counsel to the attorney general, said Wednesday. Justice lawyers are planning to file a challenge to the agreement, known as the Flores settlement, asking that a judge allow for the detention of families until criminal and removal proceedings are completed.
It is not clear if or when the children already separated will be reunited with their parents. The Department of Homeland Security says it is working on a reunification plan, but it has offered no specific details. Confusion has ensued, with parents left searching for their children.
CITY OFFICIALS: NO CLEAR REUNIFICATION PLAN SHOWS TRUMP DOES NOT CARE
Staff at the East Harlem facility has been able to identify about 100 children in their care, according to Rep. Adriano Espaillat.
But protesters outside the facility said the lack of a clear reunification plan shows that the Trump administration does not care about the kids.
Public Advocate Leticia James applauded Cayuga Centers for their work but emphasized that the children who have yet to be identified need lawyers, sponsors, and foster families to ensure they will have protected legal status.
THE BATTLE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE CHILDREN
City and state officials say they have struggled to get information about the migrant children.
Due to a federal gag order, facilities where the separated children are being held have been prevented from providing details about them, including exactly how many are being held.
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The city, meantime, is also demanding information about migrant children that have been placed in state facilities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio fired off a letter to the Department Health and Human Services on Friday, saying he is concerned about the safety of the children being held.
The mayor said he wants to know the exact number of children, their ages, and how the federal government plans to reunite them with their family.
"The children are struggling with profound emotional trauma and require immediate medical care," de Blasio said.
The letter came a day after the mayor was turned away from a facility housing immigrant children Thursday during a trip to Texas.
EFFORTS FOR THE PUBLIC TO HELP THE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Some New York City organizations and advocacy groups are soliciting donations and help for the children separated from their families, as well as organizing protests. A rally in support of these families is scheduled for June 30 in Foley Square, for example.
The New York City Civil Liberties Union said it will mobilize people and said it intends to sue the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
But people are advised to be wary of who they are donating to, and the attorney general's office has tips for those who want to help:
- Take time to research the organization
- Find out where your money will go. People are advised to be wary of crowdfunding pages such as GoFundMe and be sure a charity has authorized a campaign.
- Be wary of overly emotional pleas for money, such as phone calls.
- Do not ever disclose personal information, such as your social security number.
- Never give cash; give you contribution by check or credit card made payable to the charity.