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Two years since Texas leadership announced the state would transport migrants who had been released from federal custody to other states, Texas has transported over 102,000 migrants to New York, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. These cities, traditionally known to be immigrant-friendly have strained to meet the need of migrants coming to their cities but have nevertheless, heeded the call to welcome and support immigrant children in their cities.

CHILDREN AT RISK, a leading Texas nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families, gathered to raise awareness with key national partners including Children Now, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Citizens Committee for Children and Children’s Advocates for Change about the harmful influence of Texas policies on other states and the impact these policies have on the mental health of immigrant children. These organizations are uniting to stand together in support of immigrant families and highlight specific supports that are necessary to counteract harmful impacts on immigrant families during this unprecedented time.  

“Let’s be clear, the unilateral displacement of children and families across the U.S. is destructive to children’s lives,” said Dr. Bob Sanborn, President & CEO at CHILDREN AT RISK. “Children should not be caught in the political crossfires of a national debate.”

“The well-being of all children, and certainly those experiencing the trauma and insecurity caused by migration, should always be our central and collective concern. Migrant children need stability and support, not made to suffer by political cruelty.”  Ted Lempert, President, Children Now. 

Press conference participants included Dr. Bob Sanborn, President & CEO, CHILDREN AT RISK (C@R); Linda Corchado, Director of Immigration, C@R; Ted Lempert, President, Children Now; Dr. Tasha Green Cruzat, President, Children’s Advocates for Change; Heather Tritten, President & CEO, Colorado Children’s Campaign; Beatriz Zavala, Clinical Coordinator, Humanitarian Outreach for Migrant Emotional Health (H.O.M.E.); Dr. Benard Dreyer, Professor of Pediatrics, Director of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, Bellevue Hospital Center .

 “We cannot risk scarring children for life by using them as pawns in a political dispute over immigration, especially considering many have already been traumatized by their journey to the United States.” Dr. Tasha Green Cruzat, President, Children’s Advocates for Change. 

“The Colorado Children’s Campaign is committed to creating every chance for every child, and we welcome the thousands of new Coloradans who have recently arrived in our state. We are grateful to community members and policy leaders who have worked together to support newcomers,” said Heather Tritten, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “But the arrival of children and their families has too often been marked by chaos and lack of communication, which creates unnecessary additional mental and physical stresses for young children and their families. We must invest in resources, better coordination, and thoughtful policies that support the health, well-being, and economic stability of children and families at such a vulnerable moment in their lives.” 

“Arriving families have already survived life-threatening trauma and are deeply vulnerable,” said Jenifer Wolf-Williams, Ed.D., executive director of Humanitarian Outreach for Migrant Emotional Health (H.O.M.E.).  “Yet rather than offering protection, the bussing system imposed by the Abbott administration takes advantage of these families’ vulnerability, adds to their layers of distress, and compounds the psychological damage for affected children. H.O.M.E. is working to ensure that immigrant children and their families can remain in a safe, stable environment in which they have a chance to heal. We strongly oppose the traumatic coercion, misinformation, and lack of safety imposed by the bussing programs.” 

“NYC has provided services to more than 180,000 asylum seekers since the spring of 2022,” said Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, Director of Pediatrics NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) Bellevue. “Thousands arrive in difficult situations, including families with young children and pregnant people who arrive unannounced on buses from the southern border. Many are unprepared to find themselves here in NYC. They are often recovering from the trauma of thousands of miles of walking through dangerous jungles and have illnesses, are malnourished, confused and frightened. One young boy arrived by chartered bus from Texas after having his anti-epileptic medicine seized at the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Deprived of his medication, he suffered a near-fatal seizure just moments after he arrived in NYC’s Port Authority. Another child with diabetes didn’t have access to insulin because there wasn’t refrigeration on the long bus trip and came to us with severe diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening condition). Frequently people arrive in NYC late in their pregnancies after not having basic obstetric care at the border or during the transnational bus ride to NYC.”  

The busing of migrant families from Texas comes under the Operation Lone Star (OLS) border initiative. Texas has transported over 12,500 migrants to D.C. since April 2022, over 37,900 to New York City, 31,500 to Chicago, 16,300 to Denver and 1,500 to Los Angeles. As of January, the state has spent over $148 million to bus migrants, a cost that grows each day.  

Our partners have identified several key concerns regarding the impact on Operation Lone Star as it displaces families and strains local support systems and networks. 

  1. While the challenges our state is facing at the border are unique, we must be vigilant and commit to having a humane, child-centered focus on all children, regardless of their immigrant status. It starts with Texas. – CHILDREN AT RISK 
  1. Children who have just experienced a long, unsafe migration have suffered immense trauma. Prolonging their state of instability not only exacerbates that trauma but can have lasting harmful effects on their and their family’s mental health. Migrant children need to be connected with relatives and health services whenever possible, not bussed to cities where community supports aren’t likely available. – Children Now 
  1. Many of the recent asylum seekers entering our country are fleeing from violence, political unrest, and a collapsing economy in their home country. We have children facing post-traumatic stress disorders due to the circumstances they faced in their journeys and continue to experience. Our cities and states are doing their best to be compassionate and decent to recent arrivals as each awaits a hearing on his or her status. However, the sheer number of individuals arriving has placed a strain on local and state resources. The federal government needs to coordinate and fund necessary health and human services for these individuals who have requested asylum in search of a better life. – Children’s Advocates for Change 
  1. We call for better coordination among states and agencies to ensure that children and families have the best chance for a smooth transition and better access to basic resources in Colorado. We also need investment from federal officials, state and local governments, and philanthropies to ensure that schools and communities are able to meet the mental and physical health needs as well as the academic and social needs of newcomer children. – Colorado Children’s Campaign  
  1. We call for caring leaders to refrain from inflicting new traumas on vulnerable children and their families. Instead, treat them with dignity and provide complete, non-coercive information about their options for finding safe spaces in which to heal. – H.O.M.E. 
  1. Treating healthcare as a human right starts at the southern border, where asylum seekers should be able to access basic care like prenatal services, vaccinations and life-saving medications. If we work together, we can solve this humanitarian crisis and treat these asylum seekers with the compassionate care they deserve. – Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, Director of Pediatrics NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) Bellevue. 

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Our vision is for the state of Texas to offer a welcoming environment forimmigrants and refugees where immigrant children can easily integrate andaccess the resources they need to learn, thrive, and succeed. While the diversityof the immigrant community enriches our state, it also adds complexity to thestrategies needed to address their varied needs.