NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - New York City announced new legal help for the more than 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant minors in the city. Officials say many are going through deportation proceedings without the advice of a lawyer.
New York's First Lady Chirlane McCray joined Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Bitta Mostofi, Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks and other legal and social work staffers and volunteers to talk about what action they're taking following their trip to the federal family detention center in Dilley, Texas.
"This is an outrage," McCray said. "It cannot continue where these children and families are being separated from each other."
Mostofi said the number of children coming to the U.S. border to seek refuge is increasing.
"So we know that many of them will be transferred here to New York City centers where they'll be under federally contracted foster care agencies," she said.
The stress and trauma the families are suffering made a strong impact on the city professionals who volunteered their time for the trip.
"This is the first time I have seen every single symptom hit," said Carmen Blanco, a clinical social worker with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. "It was frightening to us but worse for the families."
The group estimates there are about 40 minors in the city who have been separated from parents in the Texas detention center and well over a thousand who came here on their own and are now in the system waiting for the government to decide their fate. They want the children to know they're not alone.
"We are today announcing earmarking $4.1 million of our legal services funding to provide legal help to separated and unaccompanied minors in New York City," Banks said.
Mostofi said the number of minors in this situation is expected to grow and that the city must do what it can to help them through a very challenging and difficult time.