Support and Services for Unaccompanied Minors
Published on May 23rd, 2023
Memorandum of Support
Re: A3271 Hevesi / S4419 Fernandez
Provides for support and services for unaccompanied minors with no lawful immigration status
The above-referenced legislation would provide a variety of supports and services to minors in New York State who have entered the United States unaccompanied and without lawful immigration status. Services include health and behavioral health services under the Child Health Insurance Program, counseling sessions with social workers, legal services, language services, employment assistance, bilingual support groups, and enrollment in public schools.
The New York State Catholic Conference supports this legislation.
The influx of unaccompanied minors entering our country, primarily across the Southern Border, is a growing humanitarian crisis. We witnessed an expansion of this phenomenon during the Trump administration, and sadly we have seen the numbers of such children increase dramatically once again in the early days of the Biden administration. We can only imagine the desperation of parents who allow their children to cross the border alone, and the fear and anxiety of these children in a strange land, without their families, and at risk of exploitation by traffickers and others.
This legislation provides a wide range of sorely needed services to such minors. Catholic Charities and other not-for-profit organizations excel at providing such programs to ensure that children who resided in the state or were taken into custody in the state can get the legal assistance they need to protect their interests, as well as social services to enable them to address their trauma, heal and sustain them.
Welcoming the stranger is a fundamental imperative of the Gospel. Jesus and his parents, themselves, were refugees in a foreign land fleeing violence and death during his early childhood. We commend the sponsors for addressing the urgent needs of children who themselves have fled violence and poverty.
While the United States government ultimately is responsible for creating and enforcing just policies to secure our borders while accepting those fleeing violence, deter the entry of unaccompanied minors, and reunite separated families, our state has an important role to play in caring for those who are here. We urge passage of this legislation.