Rockland lawmakers, nonprofits ask for additional assistance from feds to help with immigrant increase

Day outlined what the county has seen as a result of more migrants coming to the area, including the East Ramapo Central School District having more than 1,000 new enrollments since September and a 35% increase in children in the foster care system.

News 12 Staff

Mar 2, 2023, 10:31 PM

Updated 447 days ago

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Elected officials, government agencies and nonprofits in Rockland County say they need more assistance from the federal government to help respond to the increase in immigrants coming to the county. 
"This is not something that's only happening at the southern border. This is something that's happening in our backyard," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. 
Day outlined what the county has seen as a result of more migrants coming to the area, including the East Ramapo Central School District having more than 1,000 new enrollments since September and a 35% increase in children in the foster care system. 
Day is asking for the federal government's help - with a grim warning. 
"It's the federal government's responsibility to help us to help these families and individuals resettling in our community. Without it, we are going to capsize. We are going to have more hunger, more children who cannot learn," says Day, 
The county's Social Services has been one of the front-line agencies responding. 
"We have some very sad situations where kids have come into this country, and they have been trafficked, and we have taken them into our care. Again, federal dollars do not align with that. I can't use federal dollars to pay for that foster child. I have to use county dollars to do that," says Joan Silvestri, of Rockland County Social Services.
While the county was not able to put a price tag on how much money it has used or how many migrants have come to the area, food assistance programs say they are seeing the need increase firsthand from a combination of rising inflation and immigration.
"This is not about anti-immigration from our perspective. This is about helping families that need help," says Juan Mena, of the Sloatsburg Food Pantry.
Mena says they serve about 3,000 families a month and have been recently feeding an average of 39 new families each month, with more people from Ukraine, Russia and South America. 
"We just need more support from the county, from the state, from the federal government to help us so we can serve our families," says Mena. 
"This is real, and we need to be serious about it. We need to be sober. And we need to come up with solutions," says Rep. Mike Lawler.
Lawler called for more federal funding to help municipalities, schools and nonprofits respond, adding he will be working with a California Democrat to create a congressional caucus focused on addressing immigration.
While government officials and other agencies were inside, a group of protesters outside raised their voices.
"As a person who does work for a nonprofit, I see this every day. But I don't see them there to see the struggle for real. They see what's on paper or what the organizations are putting out there, but they're not there seeing the struggles to see what is truly needed," says Ana Maeada, of Spring Valley.


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