EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — The Trump Administration’s newly-ended practice of separating children from their parents in families seeking asylum or illegal entry to the U.S. has left hundreds of displaced children in the New York City area. The exact number is not clear, but it's far higher than originally estimated, according New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I’m shocked by how much this policy has come home to New York City,” the mayor said, after spending more than an hour touring a youth and children’s center in East Harlem that serves children separated from their families at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Initial estimates on Wednesday morning of the number of displaced children in all of New York State were in the low hundreds. However, on Wednesday afternoon, after de Blasio toured one of two New York City facilities serving the children separated from their families, it became apparent that the numbers are likely much higher.
“I'm shocked to have learned here today [that] there are 239 children right here, as a result of the Trump Administration policy," de Blasio said.
That's 239 at the Cayuga youth and children's center on Park Avenue and 130th Street alone. The Cayuga organization has another facility in the South Bronx. It, along with other federally-contracted centers in Syosset, on Long Island, and in Yonkers, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry and Somers in Westchester County, apparently serve many dozens more displaced children.
"A number of kids have come with lice, they've come with bedbugs, chicken pox," he told reporters, adding that the East Harlem center is providing education and food for the children during the day.
In the evenings and overnight, the children stay in foster care, de Blasio said. Most of the children at the East Harlem center come from Guatemala.
With Westchester County being the home to more facilities serving displaced children than any other local jurisdiction, the county executive expressed concern for the children under care in the county he oversees.
"We can't have this disruption" of children's lives, County Executive George Latimer told PIX11 News, adding that this is "not a rational way to operate."
He said the family separation policy was "not humane," but also said that it's unclear as to what will now happen to the children who are already here, without their parents, even though Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday ending the policy that his administration began a month-and-a-half ago of separating children from parents attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, or seeking asylum here.
Mayor de Blasio echoed Latimer's uncertainty about the children's fate. Some of their parents may have already been deported, and it's not at all clear when, or if, they'll be reunited with their mothers and fathers.
"The federal government needs to come clean to the whole situation," de Blasio said. "The federal government has not given us information."