NEW YORK (AP) — Politicians and religious leaders vowed to ensure immigrant families separated at the U.S. border are reunited swiftly, as a crowd rallied Saturday outside a facility housing children bused from Texas to New York.
State Sen. Brian Benjamin’s East Harlem district includes the Cayuga Centers shelter where he says 239 immigrant children have been receiving services. The Democrat said the children include a 9-month-old baby and a 9-year-old Honduran boy seeking asylum.
“The babies in there can’t name themselves,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who organized the rally. “They will be given a name by others. They will not have legal status. This is not as easy as an executive order.”
More than 2,300 children were taken from their parents in recent weeks under a “zero tolerance” policy in which people entering the U.S. illegally face prosecution. Republican President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to stop the separation of families, but Democrats say they haven’t seen a coherent system for reuniting those already separated.
Leticia James, New York City’s public advocate and a Democratic candidate for state attorney general, called for attorneys to travel to border states to offer pro bono legal services to detained immigrants.
“We also need to find sponsors for those children who unfortunately may be never, ever reunited with their families,” James said. “We need people who can speak Spanish.”
Sharpton and others said they’ll continue protesting outside Trump-owned hotels until the children are returned to their families and legislation is passed prohibiting authorities from separating families entering the U.S. illegally.
“All of us will stand up and speak truth to power on behalf of these children,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.