Mayor Bill de Blasio

Steve Burns/WCBS 880

De Blasio: 239 Migrant Children Have Been Sent To NYC Without Parents, City Was Not Told

June 20, 2018 - 3:14 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- A total of 239 children have been sent to New York City after being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reported, de Blasio said the crisis is no longer far away at the border.

“We’re all understanding this is sort of coming in wave after wave; than in the last few months, this family separation policy has affected thousands of children,” de Blasio said. “Two hundred and thirty-nine of them are right here, right now.”

The children are being housed at a Cayuga Centers facility on Park Avenue in East Harlem. On Tuesday night, NY1 published a video showing some girls being led into the shelter in the dark.

The Cayuga Centers facility is a day facility with school programs. Unlike the situation at the border, the children who attend classes at the facility have been placed in foster homes, de Blasio said.

De Blasio said 350 children have been at the facility, the youngest 9 months old. He specifically cited the story of one 9-year-old boy from Honduras who was sent 2,000 miles to New York and does not know when he is going to see his mother again.

De Blasio himself toured a classroom at the facility and said the Cayuga Centers staffers were “very forthcoming and transparent.” But he said the children were sent to the facility without the New York City government even knowing.

De Blasio said the professionals at the facility said the separation has been traumatic for many of the children. He said they are suffering “very real mental health issues,” and need support.

He also said some of the children have come with physical challenges that resulted from being held in detention. Some have lice and bedbugs and are suffering from chickenpox and other infectious diseases, the mayor said.

“Our message to the federal government is simple – stop this right now,” de Blasio said. “Stop this broken, inhumane policy right now.”

De Blasio emphasized that the children are being treated well and given support at the Cayuga Centers facility, but they really need to be with their parents.

The mayor said now that the children are in New York City, the city wants to do everything it can to help.

On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep migrant children from being separated from their families at the border.

But he said the "zero-tolerance" prosecution policy on immigration will continue.

Trump said during a White House meeting with members of Congress that, "We want to keep families together.'' 

The comments come amid news that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has been working on executive action that would end the separation process. A person familiar with the plan told the Associated Press the secretary believes there is little certainty that Congress will act to fix the separation issue that has been dominating news coverage and she is trying to find a solution. The order would ask the Department of Defense to help house the detained families.

Trump had tweeted earlier Wednesday that he was "working on something."

"It's the Democrats fault, they won't give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation. They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!" he wrote.

Earlier, House Republicans had been talking about two bills to address the immigration issue. CBS News White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy said both were “overhaul bills” that would change the nation’s immigration system – curbing legal migration as well as stepping up border security.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)