What to Know
- About 2,300 children were separated from their families over a 6-week period after Jeff Sessions announced a new 'zero-tolerance' policy
- The Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry is one of several local facilities housing migrant children separated from their parents
- In New York City, the Cayuga Center is housing more than 200 migrant children; Mayor de Blasio toured the center Wednesday
Seventeen undocumented Central American children are being housed at a facility in Westchester, News 4 New York has learned, one of several in New York taking in children separated from their families during the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" border policy.
On the quiet campus of Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, social workers are trying to calm the fears of children crying for their parents.
"All day long, all day long, all they want to know is, are their parents OK?" said Jeremy Kohomban, who runs the Children's Village.
Kohomban said he is not permitted to discuss details of Children's Village's longstanding contract with the federal government, but he confirmed many of the children in his care have made contact with their parents since they arrived.
"I can't speak to the details but I can confirm that the federal government is extremely helpful in making sure we have contact," he said.
"The first thing we tell kids is, 'Don't worry, we will do everything we can to find your family,'" said Kohomban.
The moment the children get on the phone and hear their parents' voices, Kohomban said, "I couldn't describe it to you. Just imagine what it means to know that your parent is OK."
Kohomban acknowledged he doesn't know how long the current children will be in his care. Children's Village has been housing undocumented children for 15 years, historically serving as a safe place on the road to being reunited with parents in the area.
The recent separation policy -- ended Wednesday when President Trump signed an executive order, essentially reversing himself -- presented a very different scenario. It's no secret how Kohomban feels about it: he's been a national advocate for keeping children and parents together.
"I can't speak about those children or the federal policies, but I am conflicted, yes," he told News 4. "It is immoral and it's wrong."
Kohomban said he never considered refusing to take in the children: "We are good at what we do, and we work well with the federal government.
"I'd rather these children be with me than anywhere else."
The federal government has tens of millions of dollars in contracts with local New York programs now receiving the children separated from their parents. MercyFirst on Long Island has eight children between the ages of 6 and 10; not one had even a sibling with them on the long 2,000-mile ride to New York. In New York City, the Cayuga Center in East Harlem is housing 239 migrant children.
The Cayuga Center, which has classrooms in a six-story building across the street from an elevated train line, has a federal contract to place unaccompanied immigrant children in short-term foster care.
Mayor de Blasio, who toured the center Wednesday, said the staff there told him it has taken in about 350 children since President Trump's administration implemented its "zero tolerance" policy this spring calling for the criminal prosecution of all adults caught crossing the border illegally.
The mayor said he visited a classroom where about 40 children, mostly from Guatemala, were working with three teachers.
"It looked like the kids were being treated very well," the mayor said, although he said a number of the children arrived with physical problems, including lice, bed bugs and chicken pox.
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De Blasio called the Republican president's immigration policies inhumane, but praised the staff at the Cayuga Center.
"There have been threats directed against the people who work here. That is very wrong and inappropriate," de Blasio said. "They didn't create the policy. They are trying, as professionals, to help these kids in distress."