Harlem’s Brian Benjamin And Others Ask Cuomo To End Family Separation And More

Almost two years ago in response to the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” that marked the tragic beginning of ongoing immigrant family separations in this country.

Advocates and activists have sent a letter with 340 signatures to Governor Cuomo calling for the signing of S222-C (Benjamin)/ A1436-C (Epstein). This bill was overwhelmingly passed in both houses as a response to the Trump administration’s policy of separating refugee children and parents at the border and sending the children into the nation’s foster care system — including in NYS.

“When Trump’s federal government sent separated children to our state and my district I knew we had to act, and so we introduced the SCAR Act. This new version of this bill, which will ensure that separated children are not forgotten or lost, passed both houses of the legislature this year, and is the result of the work of many of the faith and community leaders who are gathered here today. I am proud to join them today in support of this bill becoming law,

“When Trump’s federal government sent separated children to our state and my district I knew we had to act, and so we introduced the SCAR Act. This new version of this bill, which will ensure that separated children are not forgotten or lost, passed both houses of the legislature this year, and is the result of the work of many of the faith and community leaders who are gathered here today. I am proud to join them today in support of this bill becoming law,” said bill sponsor Senator Brian A. Benjamin.

“Since day one of his candidacy, Trump has waged war on immigrants. As president he has empowered ICE to separate children from their families at the border, dispersing children around the country, forcing states like New York to pick up the pieces by having these children in our state foster care system. Once released from federal custody, many of them remain in New York. This year, the legislature stood up to Trump’s cruel policies and rejected his attempts to conceal the effects of his family separation policy. With the passage of our bill, we are shedding light on our foster care system and ensuring that we have the data we need to support our separated children as well as families around New York State,” said bill sponsor Assemblymember Harvey Epstein.

“Every day, we hear more stories about the Trump Administration’s dishonesty and lies as they continue to separate children from their parents and imprison them in cages. We now know that hundreds of immigrant children have been held in black-ops hotels with no oversight, and even as this has become common knowledge, the practice has continued. These policies terrorize parents and children and stand against every one of our moral, humane and scriptural beliefs. This bill, the SCAR Act, will allow the government of New York State and our communities to have the information we need to keep families together and to fight the cruel heartlessness of this Administration.” said Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

This legislation includes the spirit of the original SCAR act by requiring that New York social service and foster care agencies with federal contracts who provide custody for unaccompanied or separated children must share aggregate data about increases or decreases in the numbers of foster care children in their care to the NY State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). These numbers give advocates and policymakers basic information they need to know if there is a rise in unaccompanied and separated children so the federal immigration policy does not continue to operate in the dark. Edward Hayes, President and CEO of the Cayuga Centers, one of the state’s largest foster care providers, indicated at the press conference that his organization supports this bill, and that it is crafted in a way that encourages transparency without jeopardizing important federal contracts that allow his organization to continue their work.

Dr. Hazel Dukes of the NAACP decried this action at the press conference and said that in addition to signing onto to the joint letter, her organization would be sending its own letter urging the Governor to sign the bill.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Trump administration continues to separate families at the border, two years after claiming that they have stopped the practice. Dr. Hazel Dukes of the NAACP decried this action at the press conference and said that in addition to signing onto to the joint letter, her organization would be sending its own letter urging the Governor to sign the bill.


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“For a long time, my children, my husband and I were separated. ICE took my husband prisoner in front of my children. They incarcerated him for two and a half years. This caused deep trauma to my family such that we had to seek therapy in order to continue moving ahead. It was a very difficult time, but today, thanks to God and with the help of New Sanctuary Coalition, my husband is with us again. As a mother, I put myself in the place of all those families that feel desperate not knowing anything about the whereabouts of their children, with great uncertainty and the immense pain that brings trauma to our children that will forever mark their lives,” said Jauna Santana New Sanctuary Coalition Member

“Since the current Administration’s inhumane “zero tolerance” policy of 2018 that separated immigrant children from their families in large numbers at the Mexican–US border and sent them to foster agencies in NYS and around the country, Governor Cuomo has joined faith and community leaders across New York State to express his outrage. We call on him now, as diverse faith leaders and New Yorkers of conscience to sign the New SCAR Act that allows New York State to shine a light on this inhumane practice that, while not official federal policy, still sends unaccompanied and separated children to state foster care agencies,” said the Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, The Interfaith Center of New York.

“The SCAR Act is NY State’s best-faith effort to combat the federal government’s cruel, continued family separation policy. We need Gov. Cuomo’s enthusiastic signature today. And as he signs, NY State offers a template for the rest of the 49 states to show that none of us will be a haven to cruelty. We call on every state to bring transparency and accountability to the way we care for the precious children who continue to be ripped from the people who love and care for them,” said Kaji Dousa, Park Avenue Christian Church and New Sanctuary Coalition.

“For nearly 120 years, the New York Junior League has been fiercely committed to safeguarding the well-being of our city’s children,” said New York Junior League President Dayna Barlow Cassidy. “We support the SCAR Act because it requires more consistent reporting about the separated, immigrant children in the custody of the state’s foster care agencies. As a community of advocates, policymakers, and service providers, we have a sacred responsibility to these children, and with more reliable information, we can better protect them.”

A live stream of the press conference can be accessed here.

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