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Coalition, Partners Announce Effort to Coordinate Services and Support for Migrant Children in New York

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 ext. 235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York  (Wednesday, July 23, 2014)

Coalition, Partners Announce Effort to Coordinate Services and Support for Migrant Children in New York

New York Immigration Coalition, Service Providers, and Government Officials Discuss Collaborative Strategy to Meet Needs of Unaccompanied Children 

(New York, NY) On Wednesday afternoon, the NYIC held a briefing to discuss a coordinated strategy to help recently arrived unaccompanied minors reaching New York City and State. Since January 2014, 47,000 migrant children fleeing violence and poverty from Central America have been detained by immigration authorities at the southern border. Close to 3,300 migrant children have already arrive in New York State, with another 7,000 minors expected to reach the state in the coming months.

Left to Right: Dr. Alan Shapiro, Terra Firma; Neena Dutta, AILA; Claire Sylvan, Internationals Network of Public Schools; Commissioner Nisha Agarwal, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs; Steven Choi, NYIC; Mario Russell, Catholic Charities of New York

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, opened the briefing by saying, “New York has always been a welcoming state for immigrants. In the face of this humanitarian crisis, it is our State’s moral duty to help these children, who have faced harrowing and traumatic journeys over thousands of miles to flee violence, rape and death. The NYIC’s member agencies have already seen large numbers of migrant children - many of whom have legitimate claims to legal remedies such as asylum and refugee status - in upstate, Long Island, and New York City. We aim to work with our partners, including City and State agencies, legal service providers, social service agencies and others to ensure that we can respond to these children's needs with quality shelter and legal, social, educational, and psychological support.”

The Coalition was joined by Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal to discuss New York City’s response.

Commissioner Agarwal said, “The Administration is committed to do everything we can to embrace Central American migrant children who are placed in New York City. With an influx of these minors entering our area, we have formed a task force to coordinate an interagency response to the developing situation. We are also working closely with private organizations to identify the best way to coordinate services and support.”

Catholic Charities New York and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) discussed the current legal efforts and anticipated needs of unaccompanied minors in New York.

“Catholic Charities has a longstanding, comprehensive knowledge of the humanitarian plight faced by immigrants, including unaccompanied children, and we are looking forward to creating a coordinated response to this new call for help,” said C. Mario Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities. “Every week in residences for unaccompanied children in the New York area, our lawyers meet with and give preliminary legal assistance to dozens of immigrant children, over 2,000 in this year alone. This gives us first-hand knowledge of the trauma these young people have experienced, trauma that we have begun to attend to through our Safe Passages program and through Terra Firma, an innovative medical-legal partnership designed to meet the complex medical, psycho-social, and legal needs of unaccompanied minors.”

“We are proud to be part of the working group on our state’s response to this crisis.” said Neena Dutta, chair of the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Our nearly 1,500 members are committed to ensuring that these children benefit from the full protections allowed them under our laws. US laws offer relief to these children and it is crucial that they be given a chance at achieving the protections they are entitled to through our judicial process. Getting them critical legal, health, social, and other services will help these children better integrate into New York State’s everyday life, and will ultimately strengthen our communities while upholding New York’s strong immigrant traditions and values”

Experts from the medical community joined the briefing to speak about the health response to the crisis.

“Our work with these children and their guardians has alerted us to the enormous dangers, often life threatening, they face in their home countries and along their journey to the U.S border,” Dr. Alan Shapiro, senior medical director at Community Pediatrics Program of The Children's Health Fund and Montefiore Health System; co-founder of Terra Firma: Immigrant Youth Clinic. “The pediatric community should be ready to care for these children coming into our practices with the compassion that we show to all children in this city. This is a position also supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. To date we have seen no threat of spreading infectious diseases to the community at large - this sentiment is nothing but fear mongering. It is critical to expedite access to medical and mental health care for these children in order to keep them healthy and help heal the wounds they have sustained. Doing so will produce enormous dividends allowing these children the chance to lead healthy lives and reach their full potential.”

In addition, as child migrants await immigration hearings in New York, they are enrolling in public schools in New York State.

Claire Sylvan, executive director of Internationals Network of Public Schools, discussed how NY’s public schools should be responding and supporting newly arrived migrants, stating, "Unaccompanied minors now make up 10% of the student population in several NYC International High Schools. Schools, where these young people are concentrated, must be supported to address their mental health, medical, housing and other complex needs so they can thrive academically."

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The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.

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