City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Immigration Committee Chair Carlos Menchaca Send Open Letter to the Trump Administration Calling For More Information on Families Awaiting Reunification

City Hall, NY – City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Immigration, released a letter this week requesting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General’s Office release information on the status of families who have been affected by the Administration’s family separation policy implemented earlier this year. The Administration has yet to comply or provide any information on a plan to reunify these families, despite an order from a federal judge issued three weeks ago.

The letter states:

The New York City Council stands ready to ensure that all children awaiting reunification or previously reunified but living in New York City, as well as those who will remain in the City while pursuing their immigration cases, have access to the legal and social work services they need. However, to this day, we are still forced to rely on unofficial, sometimes leaked, information provided by employees and investigative reporters. We do not even have a verified count of the number of separated children in the City or those who have been reunited with parents, to date. 

This situation is untenable and unacceptable. We must have accurate and timely information so that we can provide these children with appropriate services.

 

Full text of the letter below:

Hon. Kirstjen M. Nielsen Secretary of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528

 

Hon. Jeff B. Sessions

Attorney General of the United States

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530

 

Hon. Alex M. Azar II

Secretary of Health & Human Services

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Hubert H. Humphrey Building

200 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20201

 

Hon. Steven Wagner

Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children & Families

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Hubert H. Humphrey Building

200 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Secretary Nielsen, Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Azar & Assistant Secretary Wagner:

We write to express our frustration and deep disappointment with the inhumanity and lack of transparency around the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which remains in effect and resulted earlier this summer in the separation of families crossing the U.S. border. Although “family separation” at the U.S.-Mexico border has ended, thousands of children, ripped away from their parents and sent to shelters and foster agencies throughout the nation, are still awaiting reunification.

Your policy unnecessarily inflicts long-lasting trauma on children and their parents. Furthermore, the uneven reunification process that has resulted from a well-intended federal court order threatens to cause additional harm. We remain concerned for the welfare of the separated children placed in New York City area shelters and foster agencies with U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) contracts; and for those children who may soon arrive, having been placed with local sponsors or whose guardians have come to New York City to reunite with them.

The best way to serve these children is to ensure they can make decisions about their future with their parents, including exploring opportunities to pursue humanitarian relief and options for repatriation. We strongly believe that these families are best served in New York City, where they can better access the legal, health and mental health services they need.

You must not exacerbate this problem by also denying separated families their rights to these services.

The New York City Council stands ready to ensure that all children awaiting reunification or previously reunified but living in New York City, as well as those who will remain in the City while pursuing their immigration cases, have access to the legal and social work services they need. However, to this day, we are still forced to rely on unofficial, sometimes leaked, information provided by employees and investigative reporters. We do not even have a verified count of the number of separated children in the City or those who have been reunited with parents, to date.

This situation is untenable and unacceptable. We must have accurate and timely information so that we can provide these children with appropriate services.

We therefore request that you immediately provide our offices with the following information:

  • A clear plan of action for families with children who were placed in ORR-contracted facilities in New York City once they are reunited;
  • Whether these families will be granted the opportunity to pursue their immigration cases;
  • Whether these families will be deported or detained;
  • How you will ensure that these determinations will be made in an equitable manner;
  • Regular and timely updates as separated children living in New York City are reunited with parents or sponsors;
  • A confidential mechanism for connecting sponsors and reunified families arriving or already living in New York City with city legal and social services; and
  • The date that ICE plans to reinstate in-person immigration hearings at the Varick Street Courthouse.

 

The tragedy of this situation is compounded each day these children and their families remain in federal custody or detention. We are committed to the well-being of all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, especially vulnerable children. We hope that we can rely on your cooperation so that we can help bring much-needed comfort to these children and end this crisis.

 

Sincerely,

 
COREY JOHNSON

Speaker

CARLOS MENCHACA

Chair, Committee on Immigration

 

 

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