U.S. Reps Tour Westchester Facility Holding Migrant Children

Jun 29, 2018

Five U.S. representatives and a U.S. senator Friday toured one of four facilities in Westchester County holding migrant children separated from their families. Despite the Trump administration’s claims, the Democratic lawmakers say they do not see families being reunified.

Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of Queens toured the facility — The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry.

“I thank the people at Children’s Village for doing what they do — a good job based upon bad policy,” Meeks said.

Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng also represents Queens.

“During our tour, we found all the children to be well cared for and appeared to be in good spirits,” Meng said. “While we’re glad that good conditions exist at this facility, it’s not substitute for these kids being with their parents.”

The facility is in Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s 17th District. Lowey, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, says the Committee was supposed to debate a bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She says at the bill’s markup, a number of amendments were to be offered to force the Trump administration to release a family reunification plan and report on the care of the children.

“Unfortunately, rather than debate these amendments in public, guess what?” Lowey said. “House Republican leadership just cancelled the markup for the second time in a week to avoid this debate.”

Congressman Eliot Engel is ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Democrat from New York’s 16th District says the lawmakers did not meet the children separated in Dobbs Ferry.

“Well, one young man that I spoke with talked about him coming himself, he came himself,” said Engel. “So my, my feeling is that it’s a hodgepodge of different circumstances. Some came themselves. Some came with parents and were separated.”

Engel hosted a press event June 23 in Yonkers, outside another facility housing migrant children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services denied the representatives entry into the Yonkers facility saying they had to wait two weeks. That day, the Department of Homeland Security issued a fact sheet on zero-tolerance prosecution and family reunification. It says DHS and HHS have a process to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation. Engel says there has been little additional information since in terms of numbers of migrant children housed in Westchester and how many crossed the border unaccompanied versus with their parents.

At-Large Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester represents Delaware. The Democrat says she joined the tour because she sits on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“Number one, I wanted to say to a child, there are people who are looking out for you. There are people who are fighting for you. And I also wanted to say to a parent, if it were me, I’d want somebody to care about my child,” Blunt Rochester said. “That’s really what this is about. We’re in this together. When we walked around, we saw pictures of girls with the Statue of Liberty. We went into the chapel and saw stained glass that said ‘Love Thy Neighbor.’ That’s who we are.”

Again, Congressman Meeks.

“One of the questions that we asked is, did the children have identification. And we’re told here that most of the children had their birth certificate,” said Meeks. “What does that tell you? That tells you that they were not trying to sneak in illegally. It tells you that their parents gave them their birth certificates because they were seeking asylum running away from danger.”

Lowey says Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also joined the tour.