ALBANY, N.Y. — Federal authorities must provide information on the estimated 700 immigrant children sent to foster care agencies in New York state after being separated from their parents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday as he continued to bash the Trump administration’s handling of the humanitarian crisis on the southern border.
The Democrat told reporters during a teleconference that he sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting information on the children being housed in New York so the state can provide appropriate services, including counseling and mental health evaluations.
Cuomo said earlier this week that about 70 children had been sent to New York foster care agencies after being separated from their parents when the families were caught entering the country illegally. That number is now around 700, yet state officials don’t know exactly how many are being cared for and where they’re located because the agencies aren’t allowed to divulge that information due to a gag order imposed by the federal government, Cuomo said.
He said it’s his legal responsibility as governor of New York to ensure the children within the state’s borders receive proper care, whether or not they’re U.S. citizens.
“It’s my constitutional responsibility to take care of the health and well-being of the kids in my state,” Cuomo said. “I believe legally, they must tell me where they are. They’re not political pawns that you can hide.”
Cuomo’s letter sent Thursday to Azar said state officials knew of at least 345 children who had been separated from their parents and brought to New York. The governor said that by the time his teleconference call was held, state officials had learned many more children were in New York than previously thought, with some arriving that very morning.
He laid blame for the discrepancy in the numbers solely on HHS, describing the federal agency as being in a “mad scramble” to find housing for the children while refusing to provide state officials with any information. New York is receiving so many displaced children because the state has one of the largest foster-care networks in the nation, Cuomo said.
“The state has a right to know what’s going on in those foster care agencies,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said he hadn’t received any response from HHS by Thursday afternoon. Messages left with the agency weren’t immediately returned.
Earlier this week, Cuomo said the state would file a lawsuit against the federal government over President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy that called for prosecuting immigrants in the country illegally and taking their children away. The Republican reversed himself Wednesday and signed an executive order halting the practice.