Ask a Reporter is an occasional series about civic engagement in and around the city. Do you have a question about how you can make a difference in your neighborhood, city or state? What about voting, the elections or navigating civic life in New York? Ask us! We want to help you get involved by answering your questions.
Q: How do I help reunite separated immigrant children with their families? - Vicky Jordan, Brooklyn.
A: The Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy at the U.S. border led to the separation of approximately 2,500 migrant children from their parents earlier this year. Most were reunited after a lawsuit by the ACLU, however, as of September 27, court filings showed there were still 136 in federal foster care. Hundreds of kids were sent to New York, but it’s unclear how many remain. WNYC reported about 40 were still here after a status update in September, but that number could be smaller now.
There are several groups raising money to provide services for separated families. Immigrant Families Together was started by individuals in New York City this year after a report aired on WNYC about a mom in Arizona whose children were sent to New York. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is based in Texas.
The Mayor’s Fund also collects monetary donations to support local and national organizations that help separated families. The city’s information line, 311, can help you connect with those organizations and with the federal foster agencies.
The children are held at shelters or foster care agencies that have contracts with the federal government—including these in and around New York City. Some may need bilingual foster families.
Abbott House (Westchester County)
Catholic Guardian Services (New York City)
Cayuga Centers (New York City)
Center for Family Services (Camden, NJ)
Children's Home of Kingston (Ulster County)
Children's Village (Westchester)
Jewish Child Care Association (New York City)
Lincoln Hall (Westchester)
Lutheran Social Services (New York City)
Mercy First (Long Island)
Rising Ground (Westchester)
While the family separations drew tremendous attention, unaccompanied minors continue to cross the border every day and are placed in federal custody until they’re released to a relative. The process can take months due to tougher rules implemented by the Trump administration. As a result, there are now about 13,000 children in federal custody.
Pro bono lawyers are also needed to help represent unaccompanied minors when they go to immigration court. The following legal service organizations represent unaccompanied minors in New York:
Catholic Charities Immigrant and Refugee Services
Central American Legal Assistance
Legal Aid Society
Kids in Need of Defense
Beth Fertig is a senior reporter covering courts and legal affairs at WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @bethfertig.
What questions do you have about civic participation in New York City that you’d like us to answer? Share them in the prompt below and we'll work to answer as many as we can.