Robin Hood submits declaration in attorneys general lawsuit against forced family separation policies

Leading poverty-fighting organization cites “irreparable social and emotional trauma” and “lifelong consequences” for hundreds of separated children currently in New York City as a result of “zero-tolerance policy”

NEW YORK, July 03, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Robin Hood, one of the nation’s largest poverty-fighting organizations, has submitted a formal declaration in support of the lawsuit brought by 18 U.S. Attorneys General against the U.S. Government’s “zero tolerance” forced family separation policy on the U.S. southern border. The declaration was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by Robin Hood’s Chief Program Officer Emary Aronson, a nearly twenty-year veteran of the nonprofit who oversees its grant-making efforts to support direct interventions and proven models that support people in poverty in New York City.

“As one of the nation’s largest poverty-fighting organizations, Robin Hood cannot be silent on this issue,” said Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood. “The damage brought on to children by this policy is so great and long-lasting that we are compelled to raise our voice — something we, as a philanthropy, don’t always do on policy issues. Robin Hood fights poverty wherever it lives, investing $120 million per year, from supporting immigrant communities to focusing on early childhood development. We know just how detrimental to life and health separating refugee children from their families can be, and we must do everything in our power to stop it.”

Robin Hood’s declaration argues, “This is not a political issue. This policy has denied them and their families their fundamental right to due process, overburdened local nonprofit services providers, and increased the likelihood that these vulnerable children will live their lives in poverty.”

According to Robin Hood’s declaration, at least 300 children who were forcibly separated from their parents are currently in New York City as a result of the “zero-tolerance policy,” which has resulted in “irreparable social and emotional trauma to the hundreds of children in our city as well as to their families detained across the country.” The declaration further describes the more than 50 years of research demonstrating the lifelong consequences of such trauma, including “serious impairments to healthy development… [and] increased risk of depression, suicidality, long-term physical health problems, substance abuse disorders, and other social ills.”

“It is inhumane, unconscionable, and illegal to keep these children separated from their families,” said New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood. “The stories detailed in our case make clear the irreparable trauma being caused to these children by the Trump administration’s policy, which also continues to harm New York’s fundamental interests in protecting families’ health, safety, and wellbeing. This policy is unconstitutional and we will continue to do everything in our power to stop it.”

In recent weeks, Robin Hood has been in contact with more than two dozen agencies involved in mounting a local emergency response to the situation, including federal officials, state and local government agencies, foster care agencies caring for these children, nonprofit legal services providers, experts on the health and mental health of young children, and national and local philanthropic organizations.

“We’re proud to support our longstanding community partners that have taken bold action to respond to this crisis and protect the wellbeing of these young children,” said Veyom Bahl, managing director of Survival at Robin Hood.  “These exemplary nonprofits are building on the work they have done for years – using evidence-based models that Robin Hood has helped develop to support the thousands of Central American mothers and children who seek refuge and opportunity New York City every year.”

The declaration notes that organizations in New York City involved in this effort “are operating at the highest levels of professionalism and care for these vulnerable children.” However, the current situation “has demanded a far greater volume and type of service than historically they have been funded to provide.” As a result, “local governments and philanthropic institutions will likely need to divert millions of dollars to ensure an effective and humane response to the situation on the ground.”

“There is no ambiguity about the long-term ramifications of family separation,” said Emary Aronson, Robin Hood’s Chief Program Officer. “With 30 years of experience seeking solutions for the multi-layered challenges of poverty faced by children and adults in New York City and a philanthropic approach rooted in metrics and research, we know that we need to act quickly to reunify families, to aid all children and adults in need in our city, and to support the organizations that are doing this work every day.” 

Aside from the trauma resulting from being separated from their families, additional concerns cited in the declaration include insufficient non-profit legal service provider staffing and space, lack of translation services, and immigrant children spending twice as long in foster care as they have historically.

The declaration further adds, “Consistent with our mission is the belief that all children present in New York City, regardless of nativity or immigration status, have the right to safety, to grow up in a nurturing environment with their parent or guardian, to be educated, to enjoy their childhood, and to receive due process in immigration proceedings… We firmly believe that preserving the rights of asylum seekers, including young children, as already enshrined in our laws, is vital to the fair administration of justice, to the alleviation of poverty, and to our country’s economic prosperity.”

Founded in 1988, Robin Hood finds, fuels, and creates the most impactful and scalable solutions lifting families out of poverty in New York City, with models that can work across the country. Robin Hood invests roughly $120 million annually to provide legal services, housing, meals, workforce development training, education programs, and more to families in poverty in New York City. Robin Hood tracks every program with rigorous metrics.

For Robin Hood’s full declaration, please see here:

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