Bioethics Blogs

New York City’s Innovative Approach to Helping Unaccompanied Minors

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a plan to connect unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the city from Central America with public education and health care through the legal system. Between January 31, 2014 and August 31, 2014, 4,799 children have been released to sponsors (usually family members) in New York State. Sponsors are responsible for ensuring that the children appear at all scheduled immigration court dates and comply with any related court orders. The City’s Department of Education and Department of Health and Hygiene will station representatives at Federal Immigration Court to provide children and their sponsors with information on enrolling in the public school system and the state-funded public health insurance program Child Health Plus, for which undocumented immigrants under the age of 19 are eligible. .

The Bush-era William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 offered considerable new legal protections to unaccompanied minors emigrating from countries that do not border the US. This act mandates adjudication for unaccompanied minors’ asylum claims and recommends access to legal services; however, New York City has received an infusion of private funds directed at increasing access to qualified legal counsel for unaccompanied minors in order to make these rights real.

Could New York City’s plan represent a shift towards a more sustainable ethical and legal framing of the challenge of providing for the health and well-being of child migrants? In June the Obama administration described the increase in unaccompanied children crossing the border as an “urgent humanitarian situation” and invoked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide for the children’s needs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.