When the local media began reporting on hundreds of immigrant kids separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border being detained in New York, Hastings-on-Hudson resident Kim Meisner said her Facebook feed went "crazy." “Everyone wanted to help, and saying what can I do?” So Meisner started a Facebook group, a place where the community could put their heads together. Within 24 hours of starting The Rivertowns Migrant Support Group, the page had 580 members.
But the group had one problem: They didn't know how to help. “In Hastings we have a great community of therapists, and translators, and people who could raise money and do extracurricular activities like art," said Meisner. "I wish we could go inside [the facilities the children were staying in]. That would be the dream, but it's not that easy."
But the Facebook group got some clarification on Thursday morning, when Hastings Mayor Peter Swiderski sent an email blast to residents telling them how they could help — send “welcome packets” to kids heading to Children’s Village, a facility that is currently holding an undisclosed number of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border. “It’s a fairly large number,” said the mayor.
What’s in a welcome packet? The mayor asked the community for “fun socks, journals, toys,” and other things that convey “you are welcome.”
Councilmember Mark Levine is trying something similar. He reached out to two other facilities with federal contracts – Cayuga Home for Children in New York City and Abbott House in Westchester, and asked what they needed. "They have younger kids [than Children’s village,] so they needed things like diapers and baby clothes.
“Within 24 Hours our offices were filled,” said Levine. Though he couldn’t take everything. “One woman offered frozen breast milk. We actually got a lot of inappropriate donations which we couldn’t take but conveyed how generous our community is." Levine said his office has enough donations for now, and if citizens want to give they should donate to groups which can provide immigrant families with direct services such as legal assistance.
Full list of places to donate from Councilmember Levine's office:
- Abbott House: Currently housing some of the children brought here from the border, they are an established social service and foster care agency
- The Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights: offering legal defense for families seeking asylum or facing deportation
- The Safe Passage Project: an immigrant legal services program for unaccompanied minors and refugee children separated from their parents.
- The Door: providing unaccompanied adolescent migrants in NYC with housing and other social services
- Kids in Need of Defense: works to ensure no child appears in immigration court without an attorney.
- The New York Immigration Coalition: advocating for immigrant rights in NYC and nationally
- Make the Road New York: grassroots immigrant advocacy organization that’s been deeply engaged in fighting against the family separation policy.