Health & Human Services

NYC Forms Task Force to Help Child Migrants

July 18, 2014

New York City officials have formed a task force in response to the surging population of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America who have arrived in the city in recent months and swamped community-based groups in search of help for their deportation cases, health issues, school enrollment and other urgent needs.

Since last October, federal officials have sent more than 3,200 child migrants to the city and elsewhere in the state to reunite with relatives or to live with guardians, and about 7,000 more are expected to follow in the coming months, according to immigrants’ advocates and others who have been briefed by federal authorities.

Nisha Agarwal, the city’s commissioner for immigrant affairs, said her office was leading a newly formed interagency working group to decide how to mobilize resources to best assist these youths. “We are keeping a close eye on the developing situation,” Ms. Agarwal said in a statement.

As the impact of the migration crisis has been felt beyond the Southwest border and across the country, opposition to sheltering the young migrants has mounted in many communities. But in New York City, a bastion of pro-immigrant policy, the reaction has been distinctly different.

Community-based groups that provide advocacy and services for immigrants met on Thursday afternoon with city, state and federal officials to discuss how they could “create a collaborative coordinated strategy to meet the varied needs of the children once they arrive here,” said Camille Mackler, director of training and technical assistance at the New York Immigration Coalition, which organized the meeting.

Federal officials have also asked city officials if they could help find any additional shelter capacity to house child migrants detained at the border.

The federal government has been combing the country looking for potential sites to serve as emergency shelters for the young migrants. At least seven of the sites that have been considered are in New York State, including locations in or near Albany, Bethpage, Grand Island, Horseheads, Rochester, Syracuse and West Seneca, according to advocates and public officials who have been briefed by federal authorities.

Six of those sites have already been deemed unsuitable, officials said. The seventh, a former convent in Syracuse, cleared the first review but will require further evaluation, said that city’s mayor, Stephanie A. Miner, who was briefed.

On Thursday, Mayor Miner sent a letter to President Obama inviting the federal government to open a shelter in Syracuse.

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