Faith leaders in New York, please sign on and join our effort to pass the SCAR Act.
Not a faith leader? Residents of New York State: Please sign our letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to pass the SCAR Act.
Want more information about the SCAR Act? Read about it here.
August ____, 2018
Hon. Governor Andrew M Cuomo
Dear Governor Cuomo:
As faith leaders who serve communities throughout New York State, we write to express strong support for passage of the Separated Children Accountability Response Act (SCAR ACT). We urge you to 1) support this legislation that brings much needed transparency and increased accountability to the federal government’s detention of forcibly separated children that are being held in facilities in New York State, 2) take executive action on this issue, and 3) meet with faith leaders in August to discuss this effort.
What unites faith leaders across the spectrum of faith – and others dedicated to the battle – is the shared belief in the inherent dignity of all human beings, and the commitment to welcome our neighbor and to embrace the Golden Rule that we must treat others only as we ourselves wish to be treated – commitments that are enshrined in our faith traditions.
As faith leaders, we are distraught to find that forcibly separated children have been brought thousands of miles to our State as a deterrent to their parents seeking needed asylum and a better life for their family. These immoral acts create lifelong trauma, and both government action and inaction threaten the wellbeing of children and their families.
We firmly believe in every person’s human dignity -- and that #FamiliesBelongTogether. New York is not powerless to act and to get these families reunited. New York must use its state power immediately to bring transparency and accountability concerning this issue, which will help #EndFamilySeparation sooner rather than later.
We are heartened by the introduction of the SCAR Act by Senator Brian A. Benjamin and Assemblyman Harvey Epstein that would implement a reporting mechanism to the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) of the following data by a child welfare agency with custody of immigrant minors separated from parents:
- The number of unaccompanied minors newly accepted into the authorized agency’s care,
- the number of unaccompanied minors released from the authorized agency’s care,
- the number of unaccompanied minors currently under the authorized agency’s care,
- the median and mean number of days unaccompanied minors have spent in the care of the authorized agency,
- the number of unaccompanied minors in the authorized agency’s care who were forcibly removed from the custody of their parents,
- the number of unaccompanied minors previously forcibly removed from the custody of their parents and placed in the authorized agency’s care that have been restored to the custody of their parents,
- the number of unaccompanied minors in the authorized agency’s care whose primary language is not English, including the number of minors speaking each language and the primary language spoken by such children; and
- any other information the commissioner deems necessary.
The data collected shall be made public in real-time and to government officials upon request.
The consequences for not adhering to this law include:
- Failure to report this information completely and accurately is punishable as filing a false instrument under the Penal Law.
- The Commissioner of OCFS may revoke the license of any authorized agency for failure to provide information.
This reporting mechanism would begin to allow New Yorkers to know exactly how many forcibly separated children we have within our state, how many have been reunited with their families, and the status of the children in general – we must make sure that all families are reunited.
Family separation under these circumstances is a trauma that no child or parent should have to endure. No family in need should be forcibly separated under these conditions.
“A nation that does not stand for its children will not stand tall in the 21st century world or before God.” ~Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund
Each week we hear new reports of how this government-sanctioned trauma is exacting immediate, lifelong harm to our most vulnerable population, our children. Recently, it was reported that a migrant toddler who was separated from her family as part of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policy died shortly after being released from a detention center. It is believed that the child died as a result of negligent care and a respiratory illness she contracted from one of the other children in the detention center.
These migrant children deserve better. They deserve the protection, support, care and love that we give our own children. If we are to be a strong state, nation and world, we must stand up for, protect and love all children as we would our own.
We all -- including government, business and community leaders -- have a moral duty to ensure that all human life is valued and respected. Ensuring that we #EndFamilySeparation is part of meeting that moral duty.
You have used the power of the governorship to fight back against Trump’s various inhumane policies. We now ask that you add to that effort by taking immediate action to help New York pass the SCAR Act, which will help these children and families begin to heal their government-inflicted wounds and scars.
As faith leaders representing many traditions and many houses of worship that are in community with immigrants, we are counting on you to make sure that New York passes the SCAR Act and demonstrate national leadership on this issue to serve as a model to states throughout the country. It’s the right thing to do—and it is our moral obligation.
We are counting on you to help us get it done. We are also requesting a meeting with you to discuss the SCAR ACT. As this issue is urgent, we ask that you meet with us in the month of August.