Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday he will sue the federal government over its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.’ southern border, as more than 70 of those children have wound up in facilities in New York State — with a federal source telling the Daily News the number of separated children here is even higher, 311.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the morality of this practice, but we also believe that this practice is illegal, and we are intending to bring suit against the federal government, ” Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Cuomo said the children are being held in private facilities, including three in the Bronx, that are contracted by the federal government to provide services to unaccompanied alien children — minors who cross the border alone and whom the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement temporarily houses while seeking family sponsors.
“But these are not unaccompanied alien children. These are children who were separated from their parents,” Cuomo said.
A federal source told The News that the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s population of unaccompanied minors in New York State’s lower 14 counties was 1,321 as of Monday — but of those, 311 are actually in shelters as a result of separation from family held in detention centers. All of the facilities in the area house boys and girls, except one that houses boys 14 to 17, the source said.
Cuomo said that while the state has oversight of the facilities, it has been told it cannot provide services to the children in them without approval from the federal Health and Human Services Department, which he said told the state it would take weeks.
As for the suit, Cuomo said he intends to bring it in the next two weeks and that it would be based on three legal theories.
“First, that it’s a violation of the constitutional rights of the parent to the care, custody and control of their children,” he said, and a violation of their due process as the children were removed without any hearings.
The second theory, he said, is the policy violates the terms of the 1997 Flores settlement that set national standards on the detention, release and treatment of children in immigration detention “and underscores the principle of family unity.”
And third, he said, “it is outrageous government conduct.”
Cuomo said the state has the legal right to bring such a suit.
“New York has standing, these agencies have standing, because there are children in New York who are, who have been taken from their parents without due process,” Cuomo said.
His counsel, Alphonso David, said, “The state is vindicating due process, familial association rights, of the children who are located in New York State. In addition New York State is protecting the health and welfare of children within its jurisdiction.”
Some of those children are being held at MercyFirst in Syosset, L.I., as reported Monday. Gerard McCaffrey, president and CEO of MercyFirst, brushed past a reporter seeking confirmation that nearly 60 kids are being housed there.
“It’s late at night. You can call me at work tomorrow,” said McCaffrey as he rushed into his Upper East Side apartment building.
Cuomo did not have a breakdown of how many children have been shipped to sites in New York.
“We have about 10 facilities in the state. We haven’t spoken with all of them,” Cuomo said. “We know there are over 70 children, just by the ones that we have talked about, but they are in Dobbs Ferry, Lincolndale, Yonkers, Irvington, three in the Bronx, one in Syosett and one in Kingston.”
In a followup interview with The News, David declined to characterize these facilities, saying they offer varying degrees of security and services. They are co-located in facilities that provide state-certified foster care programs, David said, but the migrant children are not part of the state’s foster care network. Instead, the agencies contract directly with the Health and Human Services Department and its Office of Refugee Resettlement.
A second federal source said the Health and Human Services Department-funded facilities in New York for unaccompanied minors are not comparable to conditions at the facilities along the border, which include chain-link cages.
“Based off our conversations with providers contracted by the federal government, we believe there are dozens, and possibly many more, of separated children in New York City,” Seth Stein, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, said. “We have every indication that they are being cared for by qualified facilities and foster families. But that doesn’t make these family separations any less unconscionable and immoral in the mayor’s eyes.”
Typically, unaccompanied minors arrive in New York because they have family nearby, and they are held in such facilities while the government looks for relative sponsors to place them with.
Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County, — which has a contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide such services — describes its program as a “family-like and nurturing environment,” that offers education, recreation, medical care and family reunification. It declined to comment on its unaccompanied minors program or whether it had children who were separated from their parents at the border.
In the Bronx, both Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Guardian Services have federal contracts to provide services and shelter to unaccompanied minors. The communications office at Lutheran Social Services said it could not answer questions about whether it housed children separated at the border; Catholic Guardian Services did not return a message left Tuesday afternoon.
At an unrelated press conference, de Blasio said it’s horrible to begin with for a child to be taken from his or her parent even if they’re held in separate facilities in the same town.
“But it’s much much worse if they’re separated by 1,000 miles, and you have no idea when that family’s going to get reunified,” he said. “And that’s what we fear we’re seeing, and we just have to do everything we can to stop it.”
De Blasio, who said he is considering a trip to the border, said that if visiting a facility here would help, he’d also consider that.
“I want to do whatever I can to stop this broken, inhumane policy,” he said, calling the border the immediate issue. “I also want to see anything we can do to stop New York City from being used as a place to send children separated from their parents.”
Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — who just returned from a trip to the border — said it was as if the children had been “disappeared.”
“It tells you the enormity of this issue,” she said of having to house children separated at the border all the way in New York. “That’s what that tells you.”
City Public Advocate Letitia James also ripped the policy, as she held a baby following an unrelated press conference on child care.
“It is unconscionable in this country that we are basically snatching babies from the arms of their families, their mothers,” she said. “We should not be cooperating in this policy that separates families.”
By ERIN DURKIN, JILLIAN JORGENSEN and KERRY BURKE
| NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
With Trump set to nominate Supreme Court choice, Cuomo will rally voters in state Senate GOP districts on abortion issue
With President Trump set to name his Supreme Court nominee on Monday, Gov. Cuomo will kick off a campaign to call on state Senate Republicans to return to Albany to pass legislation to strengthen the state’s abortion rights laws.
Cuomo will visit the districts of Senate Republicans considered vulnerable in the upcoming November elections while also unveiling a new six-figure digital and television ad campaign on the issue.
Showing the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., and the recent separation of children from their parents on the southern border, Cuomo in the digital ad says that “with this federal government, every day seems to bring a new, frightening challenge. Now it’s an attack on women’s rights.”
“We know what Trump’s Supreme Court wants to do,” Cuomo says in the digital ad touting the need to pass a bill to codify Roe vs. Wade in state law. “We must fight back.”
Cuomo will kick off the effort this week in the districts of state Sens. Terrence Murphy (R-Westchester County), Elaine Phillips (R-Nassau County) and Sue Serrino (R-Dutchess County).
“It’s simple, either come back (to Albany) and vote for it, or all Senate Republicans are against it,” a state Democratic source said. “If (Senate Republican Leader John) Flanagan were smart, he’d take the issue off the table.”
Democrats fear Trump’s Supreme Court pick could lead to the reversal of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the country. If repealed, it would be up to each state to decide on the legality of abortions.
In New York, Cuomo and legislative Democrats have been pushing a bill known as the Reproductive Health Act that they say would make sure the provisions of Roe vs. Wade are codified in the state, which passed its abortion legalization law two years before the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling.
State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently told the Daily News that the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the impact it could have on abortion will be a central theme during the upcoming fight for control of the state Senate.
Senate Republicans say Roe vs. Wade stands as the law of the land. And they argue that the proposed state Reproductive Health Act goes even further by adding provisions that allow such things as non-doctors to perform abortions, while claiming it also “waters down” protections for pregnant domestic violence victims.
Without specifically addressing the fact the Republicans have failed to take up the bill to strengthen the state’s abortion laws the past several years, state Senate GOP spokeswoman Candice Giove called it “ironic that Gov. Cuomo constantly talks about New York leading the nation on women’s rights, but his latest demand leaves pregnant domestic violence victims vulnerable.”
Cuomo top aide Melissa DeRosa shot back that “in the time it took for the men leading the Senate Republicans to come up with that bizarre lie, they could have just put the bill on the floor for a straight up-or-down vote. We know it, they know it, and the people of New York won’t stand for it.”
Cuomo’s primary opponent, actress Cynthia Nixon, along with #VoteProChoice and other progressive groups, are set to hold their own rally in Union Square on Tuesday evening calling for the protection of Roe vs. Wade and for the state Senate GOP to pass the Reproductive Health Act.
“Cuomo has had every opportunity to protect New Yorkers’ reproductive rights, but instead he chose to keep Republicans and (a former group of breakaway Democrats who until April were aligned with the GOP) in power,” Nixon said. “Rather than standing up to the Trump administration, New York’s reproductive laws provide no protection if Republicans are successful in overturning Roe v. Wade. This is inexcusable and we must do better for the families of New York.”
The Senate Republicans currently control the chamber with a bare minimum majority with the help of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with the GOP.
But the Republicans in the last few weeks of the recently concluded legislative session lacked the 32 votes to pass anything without Democratic support because one of their members left on active duty for the Navy.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who heads the Senate Democrats’ campaign efforts, says he will not endorse any of the eight breakaway Dems who earlier this year returned to the fold.
But Gianaris (D-Queens) didn’t rule out backing their challengers.
The Senate Dems as part of a reunification deal agreed not to fund any of the primaries against the breakaway senators. Stewart-Cousins has endorsed the eight former IDC members.
“We’re all one conference,” said Sen. Jose Peralta, a former breakaway Dem from Queens facing a primary challenge. “We’re all moving forward, we’re all working together to take back the majority in January.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer warns of ‘hurricane cars’ in used market
Hundreds of thousands of faulty, flood-damaged vehicles could be resold to unsuspecting drivers in the used car market, Sen. Chuck Schumer warned Sunday.
After a devastating 2017 hurricane season where Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria tore through the country, more than 600,000 cars were damaged by floodwaters — with many of those vehicles potentially finding their ways to used car lots around the nation, according to Schumer, the National Insurance Crime Bureau nonprofit and the Federal Trade Commission.
Schumer is calling on the FTC to improve regulations to ensure that consumers are aware of flood damage to prevent the practice of “cleaning up” such vehicles for resale, only for them to break down shortly after the purchase. Earlier this year, the FTC published tips to help consumers sniff out the scam.
“While the FTC has been sounding the alarm on ‘hurricane cars,’ consumers are still at risk of being duped and burdened by a financial road of ruin if they unknowingly buy one,” said Schumer in a statement. “That’s why the FTC needs to drive forward with more than a consumer warning and hit the gas on a plan that uses the ‘Used Car Rule’ already on the books to ensure that the sticker slapped on every used car in a lot details a robust ‘flood check.’ ”
Schumer has written to FTC Commissioner Joseph Simmons urging him to revise the Used Car Rule to include flood damage information, arguing that it’s become more pressing as used car sales have continued to increase after an especially bad hurricane season. The rule has been in effect since 1985, requiring car dealers to put together a buyers’ guide on used cars that details whether a dealer offers a warranty and its terms and conditions. Schumer wants to make flood checks a required disclosure in the guide.
The FTC did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday. For drivers shopping around for used cars, the commission advises checking for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats and dashboard in vehicles — potential signs that a car has been damaged in flooding. Drivers should also keep an eye out for fogging in headlights and taillights and be suspect of new upholstery in older vehicles, according to the commission.
Schumer warned that flood-related mechanical and electrical failures in a vehicle presents not just a hit to the wallet for the buyer, but a serious safety risk on the road, too.
“Whether you’re a New Yorker looking to buy in New York, or a New Yorker looking on the internet for a car parked in another state, the risk of winding up in the driver’s seat of a ‘hurricane car’ is a headache at the least, but a real danger, too,” Schumer continued.
Pruitt quietly approved “super polluting” freight trucks upon departure
One of Scott Pruitt’s final acts as Environmental Protection Agency administrator was effectively creating a loophole “that will allow a major increase in the manufacturing of a diesel freight truck that produces as much as 55 times the air pollution as trucks that have modern emissions controls,” reports the New York Times.
Impact level: The New York Times explains that “[o]ne year’s worth of truck sales was estimated to release 13 times as much nitrogen oxide as all of the Volkswagen diesel cars with fraudulent emissions controls, a scheme that resulted in a criminal case against the company and more than $4 billion in fines.” The move was opposed by several health groups such as the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, United Parcel Service, and Volvo Group.
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