At least one child at The Children’s Village, a shelter that houses unaccompanied migrants in Dobbs Ferry, New York, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). The legal advocacy organization called on the federal government to implement a plan to protect children held in its custody.
“We urge ORR immediately to investigate and intervene in this situation to ensure adequate plans and resources are in place to respond to the outbreak at Children’s Village,” they stated in the letter.
Three migrant children who are housed at a single shelter in New York have tested positive for COVID-19, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) also announced on Thursday.
“As of March 26, 2020, there have been three confirmed COVID-19 disease cases among [migrant children] in one ORR care provider facility in New York,” the agency, which oversees the network of shelters that hold unaccompanied migrant youth, said in a statement.
A spokesperson from Children’s Village said that they could not confirm nor deny the report. There are approximately 300 children aged 12-20 at the Dobbs Ferry campus.
“The Children’s Village is taking all necessary precautions to avoid the spread and contraction of COVID-19, following all CDC and New York State Department of Health guidelines,” a spokesperson for Children’s Village said in a statement. “All residents are closely monitored and any resident who presents symptoms of any type of illness is immediately referred to the appropriate medical facility.”
Last week, Documented reported that shelter workers at Abbott House and Mercy First had tested positive for COVID-19. CBS News reported on Monday that a third shelter worker has also tested positive for the extremely contagious virus.
Children are usually released from the shelter to family members or sponsors who care for them. However, ORR stated that it is suspending releases from New York care facilities.
Of the 18 children in ORR care who have been tested, 11 have tested negative and four are awaiting test results.
Jennifer Podkul, vice president for policy and advocacy at Kids in Need of Defense, which represents migrant children at shelters in immigration court, said the organization is worried about children in ORR Custody.
“We hope ORR will expeditiously reunify children with sponsors and take precautions to ensure the safety of children in their care until an appropriate sponsor is found,” Podkul said. “KIND is worried the immigration courts have not postponed detained children’s dockets so children may be forced to attend court hearings or sign documents with their attorneys increasing everyone’s exposure. Child welfare must be the priority.”