Syracuse could become temporary home for immigrant children

Jul 18, 2014

Syracuse could be a potential landing spot for unaccompanied immigrant children who’ve been crossing the Mexican border in droves in recent months. Mayor Stephanie Miner is hoping a letter to the president can bring those kids to central New York sooner rather than later.

Miner is asking President Barack Obama to consider forming a partnership between Syracuse and the federal government to help with the humanitarian needs of the kids, who are waiting for deportation hearings.

She says dealing with immigrants in the past, and in the present, is in Syracuse’s blood.

"This goes to who we are as a community. We have a history of being open and welcome, and saying if we can provide you with safety and compassion, that’s who we as a city are going to be," Miner said. “We have a community that has a rich tradition with immigration, both as our history and what we’ve done with recent refugees. We have the people, the tools, and most importantly, the compassion necessary to say, 'Let's welcome these children here and give them shelter in this humanitarian crisis.'”

Miner has been talking with federal officials about bringing the children to the former Sister’s of Saint Francis convent on Syracuse’s north side. The Syracuse location is still in the running, and Miner wants to cut through some of the red tape.

“The faster we can answer these logistical questions, the sooner we can provide shelter for these children," Miner said. "Everyone I’ve talked to across the community has wanted to be part of the solution. This really goes to who we are as Syracusans, who we are as Americans, in giving these children a warm and welcoming spot, while these other issues get resolved by the federal government.”

The government has also answered all of her questions about how it all would work, and has told her that it will foot the bill.

"The average stay is 35 days," Miner explained. "The children are healthy. When they come across the border, they get site visits by medical professionals who give them what they need to be healthy, so there are not communicable diseases.”

Most importantly, Miner says she has the support of leaders in the community.

"I’ve met with the bishop," Miner said. "Talked with Catholic Charities, I have also talked with the president of Le Moyne, the chancellor. I’ve talked with city councilors, I’ve talked with neighborhood folks and activists, and everyone has started off in the same position, which is, this is a tremendous human tragedy. Can we help?”

She says the questions she’s heard most from people are answered in a special link on the city’s website.

Full text of Mayor Miner's letter to President Obama:

July 17, 2014

Hon. Barack H. Obama

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

 The purpose of this letter is to ask for your help to create a partnership between Syracuse and the federal government to help mitigate the humanitarian crisis of the unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Like many Americans, people in Syracuse are engrossed by the plight of the children arriving at our border.  As a city with a rich immigrant tradition we feel strongly these children should be welcomed and protected. Toward that end, Syracuse would welcome the opportunity to provide shelter while the larger global issues causing them to leave home for such an arduous journey are resolved.     

While the Department of Health and Human Services has already completed a partial assessment of a potential site in Syracuse, we stand ready to expedite this process and work through any issues so we can accomplish the goal of providing a safe and welcoming site.  The federal officials have been open and transparent as we work through these issues yet we feel we can move faster to mitigate this crisis.  Indeed, the desire to help exists across the entire Syracuse community.  The leadership of the religious, academic, and non-profit community have all expressed to me a commitment to be part of a holistic solution to mitigate the humanitarian crisis we are all seeing unfold.  With your administration’s commitment we can quickly and efficiently work through the practical problems with a goal of providing shelter and compassion to these victims of circumstance.

In recent years, the Syracuse community has been part of the successful network the U.S. government has relied on for the placement and settlement of refugees. We are proud of the service network that has developed here in Syracuse to serve displaced persons from all corners of the globe and we stand ready to continue serve in this effort.   Our city’s immigrant history very much defines us and we would be proud to continue that tradition as our nation faces this latest immigration crisis.  

We hope you will accept our offer. The exodus of these young people to our borders is particularly tragic. Only terror could force a child to leave home and walk hundreds of miles to a strange place.  Our nation is rightly proud to point to the famous promise at the entrance to New York Harbor: “send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” Here in Syracuse we stand ready to live up to that promise and attend to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We look forward to hearing from you.  

Sincerely,

Stephanie A. Miner

Mayor