Cryan, Cruz-Perez, Ruiz & Vitale Launch Drive To Aid Immigrant Children Separated From Their Families

Donations Will Go To Center for Family Services’ Juntos Program To Address Primary Needs of Young People Who Have Crossed The Southern Border

TRENTON – Acting to help heal the emotional and psychological wounds suffered by immigrant children separated from their families, Senator Joe Cryan, Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Joe Vitale have launched a drive to provide the care, services and goods to meet the primary needs of these vulnerable young people who are experiencing the fearful challenges of an unfamiliar country and an unknown fate.

Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2016, the federal government has begun prosecuting an increasing number of immigration violations under criminal law instead of civil law and on April 6, 2018 the Department of Justice announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy, which will treat all immigration violations along the Southwestern border as criminal offenses. The result of these policies is that families who cross the border without authorization are divided. The parents are taken to criminal detention centers and the children are taken into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In New Jersey, one of the three federal detention centers houses children who have either been taken from their families or have come to this country by themselves seeking safety and asylum.  The FY 2019 state budget appropriates $2.1 million in new funding for legal assistance for individuals facing detention or deportation based on immigration status.  But while these children are here, there is a need to make sure we are providing the best possible care.

The effort will collect and direct donated funds and products to the Center for Family Services in support of its Juntos Program, which provides shelter, food, clothing, education, physical and mental health care services, as well as general assistance for children forcibly separated from their parents or who crossed the border unaccompanied. The primary goal of the program is family reunification, whenever possible. The center is a non-profit organization headquartered in Camden with offices and services in more than 50 locations in New Jersey.

“Like most Americans, we were shocked and outraged to see the application of an immigration policy that forcibly separated children from their parents and put them into detention centers where they were deprived of the love and care that is so important to any child,” said Senator Cryan, D-Union. “We won’t be silent witnesses to this inhumane and un-American treatment of vulnerable children and their families at a traumatic time in their lives. We have the opportunity to provide assistance that will give them some comfort and support.”

“These children and families are in flight from violence, abuse, poverty and social disorder,” said Senator Cruz-Perez, D-Camden/Gloucester. “And when they cross our borders they are forced to experience the heartbreaking consequences of separation and detention. We will help show that we are a better country than this by supporting the CFS and its Juntos Program.”

“As the mother of a two year old child, I can assure you that there is not a minute that I do not know exactly where she is and what she is doing,” said Senator Ruiz, D-Essex. “Our support is no substitute for the love and care of parents but it is a constructive way to help provide a semblance of security for children who are experiencing challenging conditions and unsettled circumstances.”

“I know from time I spent in Central America that the conditions there are extremely threatening and dangerous,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “From drug gangs, sex trafficking to a murder rate that is the worst in the world, these children lived in conditions of total despair. They come to this country in desperate hope of survival. Our humanity calls on us to at least provide basic care and comforting conditions.”

To help the Center for Family Services provide the best possible care, the senators will be collecting donations throughout the month of September, leading up to Good Neighbor Day, celebrated on September 28.

  • Donations can be sent to the local legislative district offices of the senators or directly to the Center for Family Services at 108 Somerdale Rd, Voorhees Township, NJ 08043: https://www.centerffs.org/
  • Donations can also be made via an Amazon Wishlist provided by the Center for Family Services: http://a.co/dywL7j5

In order to ensure that all donations meet standards for sanitation and safety, the center is only able to accept new items. The following is a list of some of the most urgently needed items:

  • Overnight bags & totes
  • Teen clothing, including hoodies, pajamas, winter coats, socks & underwear
  • Bedding & towels
  • Books (Bilingual a plus), educational toys, gift cards: (Movies, Target, Walmart, Amazon, Old Navy)
  • Newborn & baby necessities, such as diapers, wipes, formula
  • Care packages for teen moms
  • Tickets for recreational outings.

“I am confident that we, as a New Jersey community, will make a meaningful difference in these children’s lives by providing them with the basic items they need to be comfortable during these frightening and uncertain times,” said Senator Cryan.