Memorandum on the City Council’s Joint Hearing on Trump’s Zero Tolerance Policy

On July 12, 2018, the New York City Council called a joint hearing held by the Committee on Immigration, Committee of Health and Committee on General Welfare to address the impacts of the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance Policy,” and identify continued areas of need for the children who have been separated from their families at the southern border, and relocated to New York City for placement in federal immigration foster care.  The hearing included testimony from the three foster care agencies currently serving separated children in the five boroughs, Cayuga Centers, Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSS), and Catholic Guardian Charities (CGC)[1], the city agencies that provide legal, health and mental health and child welfare services, and advocates.


There are an estimated three hundredseparated children temporary housed in New York City federal immigration foster care facilities.  Many of them are between the ages of four and twelve, however, some are infants and pre-verbal toddlers.  Although Cayuga, LSS and CGC have both city and federal contracts, the immigration foster care services they provide for both unaccompanied and separated children are funded by the Office of Refugee Settlement (ORR) and are entirely distinct from those funded by New York City’s Administration of Children’s Services (ACS).  Although ACS has no oversight over ORR programs, Cayuga and LSS follow the same model as ACS for certifying, training, and licensing a foster home, with the added requirement that the foster parent serving children through the federal ORR contract must be linguistically matched with the child.


Due to the city’s investment in supports for unaccompanied children in 2014 following the surge of children over the southern border, service providers have been uniquely well positioned to respond to the needs of the separated children relocated to New York City under the Zero Tolerance Policy.  Many of the programs developed in response to the surge of unaccompanied children have been essential to responding to this crisis. There is a successful template for providing services to immigrant children, however, much of its success depends on the collaboration with and transparency of the federal government.  During this crisis, ORR and other federal government agencies have refused to share information with New York City about the separated children, creating a challenge to effectively caring for them.


In response to the current administration’s apparent impending expansion of a federal immigration law which allows it to deny permanent residence to anyone that uses certain public benefits, CDF-NY submitted written testimony highlighting the need for proactive private factor engagement in order to mitigate the damage caused by the inaccessibility of safety-net programs that is likely to result.  A copy of CDF-NY testimony is attached to this memorandum. This memo summarizes the testimony from city agencies, service providers and other advocates at the hearing.

[1]There are also separated children housed outside New York City at Children’s Village, the JCCA, Abbot House, MercyFirst, and Rising Ground.