New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is urging the city to consider ways to house unaccompanied minors detained at the U.S.-Mexican border.
“These children are facing horrific situations at home which has led them and their families to make some really difficult decisions,” Mark-Viverito said Thursday at an unrelated press conference. “I think we have a responsibility to respond to the humanitarian crisis that we have before us.”
She said New York should follow in the footsteps of local governments such as Syracuse, whose mayor Stephanie Miner recently penned a letter to President Obama offering shelter to border children escaping violence in Central America.
“It’s good to hear that mayors like the mayor of Syracuse have said that Syracuse would have an open door and be helpful in the name of housing some of these children, and I think that we should do the same thing, and I think that we should be humane about the way that we deal with situations like this,” she said, according to the New York Observer.
Adding to the 3,200 children who have already arrived in New York state to be housed by relatives, officials estimate another 7,000 will come in the next few months. Many of these children will end up in New York City.
Mark-Viverito's recommendation comes as the federal government scrambles to respond to the surge in unaccompanied child migrants seen at the border in recent months. Officials have specifically looked to cities around the country, including New York, for additional housing resources.
Syracuse is one of the few cities that have passed initial screenings that determine if a city is suitable for the task.
“As a city with a rich immigrant tradition, we feel strongly these children should be welcomed and protected,” Miner said in the letter to the president. “Toward that end, Syracuse would welcome the opportunity to provide shelter while the larger global issues causing them to leave home for such an arduous journey are resolved.”
But many local governments have been forced to distance themselves from such proposals due to mounting opposition from residents, Slate reports.
Nisha Agarwal, New York's commissioner of immigrant affairs, is leading a recently created task force spearheading the city's efforts to aiding incoming minors.
When asked about Senator John McCain's (R-Arizona) recent push to transfer children back by "plane loads" to their countries of origin in order to quell the surge, Agarwal said such suggestions would not fix the crisis.
"My reaction to this whole situation is that these are children and they are the victims here," Agarwal said during an appearance on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Tuesday. "And I hear things like that and I really see it as blaming the victim. There are deeper root causes that we need to be addressing rather than shuttling these kids as fast as we possibly can back to situations of violence."
Agarwal said in a statement to Capital New York that the city is currently working with the federal government to see if any extra bed space was available for children hoping to be reunited with their families.
For more on the situation and Agarwal's discussion, listen below.