Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that his administration will file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its policy of separating children from their parents after crossing the United States border. It comes as dozens of the undocumented children are held in New York facilities.
In announcing this suit, the governor said more than 70 children who have been separated from their parents are being held in the state. They are being held in about ten facilities in the state, including three in the Bronx.
A source tells NY1 that nonprofits who had contracts with the federal government to receive and care for unaccompanied minors are now receiving these children as well.
Multiple sources tell NY1 that the Cayuga Centers — a social services agency that places kids in foster care — is involved in particularly high-profile placements of kids separated from their parents along the southern border. Sources say Cayuga will be expected to place the separated children in foster care.
A representative for Cayuga could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
It is not clear how the children arrived at the facilities in the city. NY1 earlier on Tuesday reached out to the Health and Human Services Department, which is responsible for this, but we have not received any detailed response from the agency.
As to the lawsuit, the governor said the parents and children were denied due process. His administration anticipates filing it within about two weeks.
"Children have legal rights. Parents have legal rights. That's established firmly in the federal and state constitutions and in case law," Cuomo said in a phone interview. "They're fundamental rights. They apply whether they're documented, undocumented, short, tall, Mexican, seeking asylum, or not seeking asylum. Those fundamental rights apply, and we believe they've been violated."
Earlier Tuesday, representatives of the federal agencies overseeing this policy held a conference call, with one official calling separating parents and kids a "deterrent."
The federal agencies say they are prepared to take in even more children away from their parents, seeing it as the price to pay to stop the flow across the southern border.
"We expect that the new policy will result in a deterrence effect. We certainly hope that parents stop bringing their kids on this dangerous journey and entering the country illegally," said Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families. "So we are prepared to continue to expand capacity as needed."
NY1 repeatedly asked the Administration for Children and Families for information about the kids being brought here. A spokesman responded: "As you may know, for the safety and security of minors in the unaccompanied alien children program, we do not identify shelters or children in the program. I will see if we have itemized city/state information."
Hours later, the office never responded with that information.
That deterrence remark from Wagner struck some as odd. That's because the Homeland Security Secretary was asked Monday if the new policy was seen as a deterrent.
"I find that offensive. No," she said when asked whether the administration was "intending for this [policy] to play out as it is playing out" or "intending to send a message" with it.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people protested in Union Square earlier Tuesday night over the separation of children, demanding the kids be let go and expressing concerns that they may never be reunited with their parents.
In video released of a Texas facility by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants waiting to be processed are seen behind wire fences, and some are under thermal blankets. Critics have called it inhumane.
Image above is a file image, provided by the Health and Human Services Department, of a detention center.