I believe that the time has come for each of us to take whatever action is available to stop the abuse of asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors and families being implemented by the current federal administration.
As former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Children’s Services Commissioner from 2004 to 2011, I have had a great deal of experience with the agencies in the New York area that accept and care for undocumented immigrant children arriving without their parents from Central America, and seeking asylum through the federal Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program.
I also know both the city and the New York State public agencies responsible for providing help to those children, with one exception: Cayuga Center, which the New York Times reported on July 31 has built a multimillion contract under UAC despite a troubled history.
Cayuga did not have any foster care contracts with the city when I was commissioner. New York readers may recall that the Administration for Children’s Services spent much of the 2000s removing poor performers from our foster care system. Cayuga was not a provider at that time.
Today I am calling on each of these New York agencies – and those other than Cayuga, I already know to be well-run and well-led – to immediately discontinue their UAC relationship with the feds. While previous presidential administrations may have acted honorably and morally regarding unaccompanied children, this one clearly has not and will not. We must put an end to any and all collaboration with this president and his political appointees.
As the federal courts have clearly ruled, the Trump administration has deliberately separated families at the border with no plans to reunite them. They must be stopped by all of us who have any role in this.
The state of New York should step in immediately to stop any of the private agencies it licenses from taking part in this immoral and unethical practice.
Furthermore, the city of New York and each of the other counties of the state where these facilities are located should immediately go into the family court asking that these children – who after all are living in the courts’ jurisdiction – should be made temporary wards of the court, with orders to the county child protection agencies to immediately reunite them with their families.
I realize that the Trump federal government may continue its anti-immigrant-family practices with other agencies in other states. But I believe it is incumbent on each of us in the field to do what we can to stand in opposition. If we act, others will begin to do so as well.
All of us in this country need to stop making excuses and start taking the steps available to us to stop this administration’s unethical, immoral and possibly unconstitutional actions when it comes to children and families arriving at our border in search of safety.
John Mattingly was commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services from 2004 to 2011.