Responding to the sudden influx of youth fleeing Central America and now residing in New York State, Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan testified today, September 16, 2014, at a public hearing in downtown Manhattan to determine what the State should be doing to better serve them and New York State residents.
Michele Titus, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Social Services, requested testimony from Msgr. Sullivan and fellow leaders that provide residential, health care, and legal services for these youth.
Nearly one out of 10 migrant youth fleeing Central America due to the violence and extreme poverty – approximately 8,000 of the 90,000 youth arriving this year alone — are expected to be detained and face lengthy deportation proceedings in New York State, second only to Texas. Many come in search of parents or other relatives residing here. While immigration and deportation proceedings are federal issues, many youth must go before family courts and some become charges of the State.
Catholic Charities is one of the largest providers of services to unaccompanied children in the United States, with the capacity to marshal a significant response that helps the maximum number of children in the broadest geographic zone.
Yet, despite Catholic Charities’ nearly 100-year history of helping immigrants and refugees, “our collective witness of children fleeing their home country to find refuge and reunification in the United States is a first-of-its kind in our nation’s history,” Msgr. Sullivan told the Assembly.
Below are more excerpts from Msgr. Sullivan’s testimony:
The unaccompanied minors, and their families, are among the most vulnerable and needy migrants and refugees that we have ever encountered… For this very reason, it calls for special care and attention, for a set of new legal and human services responses…
This year, Catholic Charities will assist over 4,000 children in sixteen shelters, covering about 1,200 beds in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island. This is where 95% of children in federal custody in New York State are sheltered.
But in addition to breadth, Catholic Charities also is the only New York agency that can provide a comprehensive range of services to unaccompanied children on a large scale. This includes know-your-rights presentations, consultations, and legal representation to kids in detention, legal representation at the “surge” juvenile dockets, in-person and telephonic orientations to parents and custodians in communities throughout the New York region, post-release case management follow-up, coordinated medical-legal clinical support, and English instruction and cultural orientation.
Stated summarily, we call for:
- Support for deportation defense legal resources for children who live outside New York City (to the extent private and public funders may cover children residing in New York City).
- Support for expanded legal orientation community-based programs for children and parents/custodians who may not meet the “Unaccompanied Alien Child” definition (children who entered with a parent).
- Developing and supporting legal-medical partnerships and clinics
- Comprehensive case management and transitional support follow-up for children and with their parents at home (and their families) for five years
- Expansion of Refugee Social Services Program and Targeted Assistance Grant programs to allow for enrollment of children under 16 years old and children over 16 who are in school (both groups are presently not covered).
- Statewide coordination of school registration/enrollment protocols by the Department of Education (ensuring state-wide compliance with documentation protocols).