NYC Immigration Commissioner: New Task Force to Help Unaccompanied Minors

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

L to R: Lia Lopez, 8, Ashley Flamenco, 7, and Lynsey Lopez, 5 attend a rally in support of immigration reform, in Washington, on October 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty)

As more unaccompanied minors from Central America cross the border into the U.S., some local governments are turning them away. But in New York City, Nisha Agarwal, commissioner for immigrant affairs, is heading up an inter-agency task force to marshal resources for these minors. The new commissioner talks about these efforts and what else her office and the city are doing in the face of inaction in Congress on immigration reform.


Ms. Nisha Agarwal

Comments [45]

We have seen the enemy and he is us from NYC

Some commented "I don't do drugs"...then went on to imply that the drug gangs in Central America are supplying demand from addict Central American kids & adults.
WAKE UP!! ....WE "do" drugs!.... AMERICAN ADDICTS are THE SOURCE OF DEMAND FOR THOSE DRUGS THAT ARE MERELY BEING PRODUCED THERE,,,OR ARE BEING TRANSPORTED THROUGH THERE ! Low income Central American families are too poor to buy good food & clothes for themselves and their kids. THAT extreme poverty (and the drug-gang-crazy violence & rapes) is the reason you see Central American families saving up for years to put together the several thousand bucks it takes to pay another type of gang, "coyotes", to hopefully successfully get their child into the loving care of a family relative who may live in North Carolina, or California etc somewhere.
....As one of my favorite philosophers, said "we have seen the enemy and he is us".

Jul. 22 2014 05:15 PM

Agarwhal is either lying or disconnected from reality. There is no need for host families - these kids all have relatives here. Then the notion that legalizing millions would reduce the flow - is insane. We would see the exact opposite response.

Jul. 22 2014 03:46 PM

Oh goody, sounds like it will be costing NYC a fortune. Gang violence does not qualify anyone for asylum. Can we stop the farce. These kids parents are sending for them because of President Obama's policies.

Jul. 22 2014 03:36 PM

I don't do drugs. I didn't cause the drug violence in Central America. If you do a lot of imported drug then that's on your conscience but don't try to spread around the guilt like that.

Jul. 22 2014 03:00 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

To we are all immigrants...:

Amen! You've got it right!

Jul. 22 2014 02:22 PM
I and we are all immigrants from New York, the gateway to America

People, aren't you tired of hearing "IT'S TOO EXPENSIVE" take in and care for these refugee children pay for good teachers.... to pay a minimum wage decent enough to lift a working family out of abject poverty...for needed new schools, ...for affordable colleges for our kids...for building new efficient moderate and lower-income pay for granny's hip replacement, her medicines, her home health aide (Medicare & Medicaid), receive back her own money that she deposited during her work life into her Social Security account enough to avoid having to eat cat food or wait on lines at churches and soup kitchens for food, .....we "can't afford" health care for all Americans which the rest of the countries in the truly civilized world provide - and quite affordably...nope.
WHY are these basic human needs "too expensive" for our great country ? Because people like some who've written in here are so unChristian as to believe the hogwash that "the poor are too rich" in the US....and apparently that "the rich are too poor". So then America should not provide what every other truly Western country provides because these brainwashed people want to give our hard-earned tax dollars to pay for even more tax breaks and welfare to the people with very high incomes already, to have our tax dollars go to give "incentives to multitrillion multinational companies, to allow the Department of Defense to continue spending our money at the 2014 rate of $11.8 Billion PER WEEK - or $615 BILLION yearly (give to take a few hundred million) This non-thinking is wrong...and immoral.

Jul. 22 2014 02:03 PM
Kim from NJ

The kids will grow up. They WILL be more violent than the kids they will be put in school with. They have seen such violence their whole lives - why would they leave that behind. Especially if they are here with no families. You don't believe these young men aren't going to just take what they want?? We are showing the world how feckless we are. There will be many many more behind them. Go to downtown Paterson and East Orange to see what New Jersey looks like now. Gringos aren't welcome there.

Jul. 22 2014 12:26 PM

To Estelle from Brooklyn

Regardless of who sends their children here, or what the billionaires are paying into the countries coffers, I continue to work hard and pay my taxes (yes, I am in the 30+ % bracket and have no loopholes, especially a home) and educate my children in public schools.

But what I am hearing colleagues and others openly say is a little disturbing - that those crossing the borders will work hard and do not look for a handout like citizens living in the country, pointing to the african-american population. Some of these are people who have maids, cleaning women, nannies and landscaping workers who are undocumented. It reminds me of colonial times. We need to more closely examine people's reasons for embracing support for undocumented immigrants. It is not pure compassion.

Jul. 22 2014 11:25 AM
CC from Brooklyn

In all the imagery we see poor little girls, even on this page, but whenever an actual non-stock picture gets snuck out of one of these detention centers (why no photography or press? isn't this America?) it is always a group late teenage males and even that is questionable.

Jul. 22 2014 11:23 AM
Luis the PA in the East Village from East Village

Would someone please contact me from Commissioner Nisha Agarwal's agency, or from the interagency task force, regarding possibly my volunteering to help care for these children while they are our guests here in NYC?

I'm a bilingual Physician Assistant, currently retired from City service, who've had much experience performing outreach and providing direct primary care to migrant farmworkers and their families in California, North Carolina and Florida. On the whole I have found them to be responsible, hard-working people who come here at great peril to their lives, to perform the hard physical work that Americans will not do. They do this expecting a chance at the great American dream of a good life for their families. I'd like to help these children if possible.

Jul. 22 2014 11:03 AM
Citizen from Houston, TX

To the caller who is "insulted" by the immigration of CHILDREN into the United States. First off, I am "insulted" by your ignorance and as a citizen I feel that I am compelled to educate you. I was appalled that you casted these children as criminals and insinuated that they are crossing the border to heighten crime. These children, for your information, are REFUGEES. They are fleeing their countries to escape conditions of inherent violence and poverty that are outside their control. Your statement and observation provoking that the United States should spend their time elsewhere like helping people in Africa is nugatory at best. The immigration of these children into our country is a internal issue that must be dealt with now. It is of little value to change our attention to a totally different issue without solving the ones that are a current problem. Turning our backs on people in search of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not only a negligence of the pillars that this country was founded on, but also a negligence of basic human rights. If the image of toddlers trudging through the desert in search of the ability to have a childhood does not evoke compassion, then I do not know what will. It is my hope that you will unveil your antagonism in order to see things for what they truly are.

Citizen out.

Jul. 22 2014 11:01 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

To Mali
During WWII Londoners sent their children away to save them from the Blitz and Jews, when they could, sent their children away to save then from the death camps.

And in general, this is a city with quite a few billionaires. Can't we afford better safety nets?

Jul. 22 2014 10:58 AM

Hey Nisha, please help me, I'm born and raised in the USA I have been paying taxes since I'm 15yrs old, I don't have health insurance, I make too much money to qualify for free health insurance and too little to afford the new scam Obama Care, I have been searching for a better job for over a year and can't find one!! I understand that in a few years these children will be voters and bought and paid for like most of your constituents but the gig is up, We The People realize that you and all of your ilk could care less about helping anyone, you care only about gaining control over us and these children are much easier to control then people like me!

Unfortunately, my plight is not uncommon, this Country is not what it once was and because of your ideology it is becoming more and more difficult to survive without government interference for the people who are already citizens. I realize that the World is a tragic place and it breaks my heart, I hope to be in a position one day where I can truly make positive changes and I hope that our Country can heal and repair itself to do the same but at this moment we are not in a position to do anything for anyone else, we need to help our citizens, who are also victims of Insurance Companies, Banks, Credit Card Companies, etc but you don't want U.S. citizens to be free and independent, you want us to be dependent on people in your position.

When an airplane is crashing the instruction is put your oxygen mask on first, then put your child's mask on, the U.S. is on plane that is crashing, we need to put our oxygen mask on and save ourselves before we can save anyone else!

Jul. 22 2014 10:47 AM

It is sad that these children are being sent away by their parents - reminds me kids in asian countries where children are sent away to work in the carpet shops or have their eyes taken out so they can beg. One thing I have noticed is that when we see children in africa and asia fleeing violence, they look starved, but these immigrants crossing our borders look well fed.

Jul. 22 2014 10:43 AM

@Howard, first the statue was placed their to represent liberty! Because a poet put some words on it, does not mean it is suddenly overwrites the laws of the land and even back then there were strict controls and a real and immediate need for manual labor. 2nd, we now have safety nets (thank god) and therefore cannot have uncontrolled immigration. Educate 1 child without special needs or language issues - $20,000+. Now lets talk about hosing, healthcare, social services, law enforcement, fraud of services, etc. This is not NY circa 1850 where you came in and made it on your own or didn't. You obviously want to see the destruction of whatever little public assistance we have left.

Jul. 22 2014 10:32 AM

There is a law, signed by Bush, that specifically provides for Central American minors, exempting Mexicans - who have to sneak in. The kids can get here and just turn themselves in...if they get here. The train ride is harrowing. The remarks of people comparing this to flying here are absurd...same for the comments about Africa...there are desperate boat-people on the Mediterranean now bound for southern Europe. These are kids who want to make something of their lives. I urge seeing the movie (on Youtube) "Sin Nombre" to see the conditions the Honduran, Guatemalan, Salvadoran teens go through. It means "Without a Name" - they have no life there.

Jul. 22 2014 10:30 AM
duke mg from manh

We Americans have extraordinary responsibility, in fact obligation, to give asylum to the refugees from Central America because of our crucial role in creating the horrifying murderous conditions there, going back through our long history of our antidemocratic political intervention and worsening in the last half century of our cynically immoral war on drugs (an approach anyone who understands capitalism knew would increase drug use and serve as a boondoggle cops-and-robbers game rather than any sort of solution).

Jul. 22 2014 10:30 AM

"Few of these are children. Most are teenagers and guaranteed many are gang members."

Without any basis in facts. And ya wonder why it's so hard to have an honest debate on this comment section. ugh.

Jul. 22 2014 10:26 AM

good to hear so much compassion (not!) on the wnyc site (see above comments). a reminder: many of these children are fleeing dire and dangerous conditions created in no small part by u.s. policies, including drug demand created by new yorkers, and interdiction policies created by the u.s. government. but putting that aside, we have to remember that these are CHILDREN. what are we going to do, put them back on a plane (without due process) and send them back to a certain demise? that isn't America, or the image of a welcoming America. question: would we be more welcoming if these kids looked more like white America than brown America? sometimes, we're plain disgusting ...

Jul. 22 2014 10:25 AM
Bonn from East Village

Can anyone remember when this age group returned to their countries after living in the US and terrorized their communities because of their gang culture? Is this what you want to bring to the US? Is there any background check to see if any of these kids have criminal records? If so, will they be returned to their countries? Also, how to give jobs to 17 yo without any English, education, etc.? How are they to make a living when American kids can't find jobs? It doesn't sound like this has been very well thought out.

Jul. 22 2014 10:25 AM
becky from nyc

Good day Brian & Commissioner,
Thank you for the discussion. Thank you for aiding these children!!
Why don't one of you read our 'give me your tired your poor..' poem about now.
appreciate you both so

Jul. 22 2014 10:24 AM
Howard from Bronx

There is a statue in NY Harbor that say "give me your tired, your poor..."

Jul. 22 2014 10:23 AM

LMAO. Brian are you for real. If one of these "kids" becomes a criminal, you think they will report to immigration court? LOL. only a couple of percent ever do once they disperse, let alone criminals.

Jul. 22 2014 10:23 AM
Nancy from NYC

Mark from Jersey Shore -- yes, bingo!

Jul. 22 2014 10:22 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

The people who want to send these kids back home to uncertain fate are the same ones who unquestioningly support the Catholic church's ban on birth control. Paul Ehrlich predicted this in the 60s in "Zero Population Growth."

Jul. 22 2014 10:22 AM
carl from queens

no money for our poor neighbors but not a peep out of anybody when it comes to giving Israel over 3 billion a year, a country 6,500 miles away and the 24th richest country in the world... go figure..

Jul. 22 2014 10:22 AM
Dee from NYC

Few of these are children. Most are teenagers and guaranteed many are gang members. Talk about the 60 kids who were shot in Chicago. I lived in Mexico, they are having serious gang problems because we've deported gang members from LA. The guys that were running the gang in my little town, were 'dreamers' from LA, who had been shipped back.

Jul. 22 2014 10:22 AM
Chris from Brooklyn

Brian, in response your question about the different responses in different parts of the country: there is one factor that isn't brought up in discussions about "border protection."

I have a place near the border in Arizona, and something I hadn't realized until I started spending time down there is that border protection is a huge part of the economy in those regions--possibly the largest. There is mining, ranching, and DHS Border Patrol, the latter being by far the largest employer. Every restaurant, hardware store, gas station, etc. makes most of their money from that economy, and there are a huge number of ancillary services hired by Border Patrol: air conditioning repair, horse grooming, vehicle maintenance, construction, medical services, etc. It's like a vast military base that extends for a thousand miles, subsidizing the economy of a huge region of the country that would otherwise have very little viability, so there is a big incentive to scale it up and little incentive to scale it back.

Jul. 22 2014 10:22 AM
Oscar from ny

The president needs to address this "problem" with the authorities, and the presidents of each country responsible and send them aid along with each children ..

Jul. 22 2014 10:21 AM
Mari from Brooklyn, NY

I commend the current caller for discussing the situation in El Salvador. What has been absent in the discussion about this immigration crisis is a clear discussion on what it is that drives these children to migrate they way they are. Also, the gang activities in the central America are as much a US problem as it is a Central American problem. The root of the problem need to be discussed in more depth.

Jul. 22 2014 10:21 AM
Mary from Westchester

I taught a group of 18 year olds from Guatamala who were applying to be refugees (among students from other countries). They were in the custody of relatives, none of whom were receiving benefits. They couldn't work so as not to take away jobs). They all had education from 8th to 12th grade. As a group, they were sweet, generous, hard-working....

Maybe those without relatives in the US have different situations, but these are the ones I saw.

Jul. 22 2014 10:21 AM
CR from Manhattan

Wait... New York City has an immigration commissioner? What a colossal waste of taxpayer resources.

Jul. 22 2014 10:21 AM
Nancy from NYC

Sorry, GOP caller, but we DO have the money to help our own children who are in poverty. But because of GOP obstruction in Congress, we can't raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy billionaires who enjoy preferential tax rates (on hedge fund earnings) and could easily afford a tax hike without even feeling it (while our poor children, and their mothers, go to bed hungry).

Jul. 22 2014 10:20 AM
Mark from Jersey Shore

Everyone wants the perfect bandaid, staunch the bleeding. What needs to be done is to legalize all drugs, regulate and tax them. Such would remove the lethal motive for gang-related chaos in Central America and permit their economies to find equilibrium. It would be far cheaper to deal with domestic addiction than to gin up border enforcement, deportatation and incarceration. Drug users will always find a way to get high. We might as well control how that happens and enhance revenue in the process.

Jul. 22 2014 10:20 AM
Joe Cullen from Brooklyn

The problem is larger than the sum of its parts. we need a world moratorium on the health, safety and security of children around the world but who really cares about that, right?

Jul. 22 2014 10:20 AM
EC from Briarcliff Manor, NY

This is insanity. The US created the current violence, and we are responsible for the devastation. These children are not eligible for asylum because of gang violence and we need to change that. I am disgusted with the responses I am seeing - particularly from fellow Westchester residents.

Jul. 22 2014 10:20 AM

Seems like politicians have misjudged how this is going. Even the callers to this show are against such stupidity. Quit digging yourselves in a hole. Even die hard Democrats like myself cannot tolerate bad policy.

Jul. 22 2014 10:19 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Your callers have ice water flowing through their veins. I suggest they move to the Antarctic.

Jul. 22 2014 10:18 AM
Nancy from NYC

Caller Margaret:

This is a refugee situation where people are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, yes. But a big CAUSE of the violence there is a direct result of our country's drug policies. (Great letter on this in Saturday's NY Times.)

Since recreational drugs are illegal here, criminals control and reap huge profits from the illegal drug trade, which is a big cause of the violence in Central America from which these people are fleeing.

We enrich the criminals and then anti-immigrant folks here want to criminalize children fleeing the violence that's the result of our drug policies. Lunacy.

Jul. 22 2014 10:18 AM

Jul. 22 2014 10:17 AM
Miranda W from Manhattan

These pandering politicos are more concerned about non-citizens than actual citizens and constituents who are suffering with multitudes of problems. UGH!

Jul. 22 2014 10:15 AM
JC from New York

What is the UN doing about it? Wouldn't be better for those kids to find help in other Spanish speaking countries?

Jul. 22 2014 10:14 AM

Brian can I stay at your summer house

Jul. 22 2014 10:12 AM

well said... The bleeding heart BS has run its course. Should we open up to the few billion that are in terrible situations? Should we destroy our own safety nets in the process? Should we undermine our own employment for those starting out by allowing the market to be flooded with non skilled labor? Can you afford to pay for your own education and healthcare? Enough is enough. Whenever a politician says its "for the children" run as fast as you can. Particularly in this case when most of the "children" are not even young kids and we have no background on any of them.

Jul. 22 2014 10:10 AM

There is a story on the front page of WNYC's website about the 54,000 homeless people in NYC of which 75% are families with children. NYC might want to work on helping the homeless children it already has before importing more.

Jul. 22 2014 07:23 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.