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State demands info on separated children, threatens agencies

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here on May

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here on May 1. Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

ALBANY — The Cuomo administration is threatening fines, suspensions and criminal prosecution if foster care and youth care agencies throughout New York don’t turn over detailed information about whether they are housing immigrant children who have been separated from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s border policy.

The demands for information and threats of penalties were contained in letters sent late Thursday afternoon through the state Office of Mental Health and Office of Children and Family Services, according to copies obtained by Newsday.

And it occurred just hours after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo held a news conference to blast the Trump administration for its “zero-tolerance” border policy and the separation of migrant children from their families. The governor, a Democrat who is up for re-election, also harshly criticized what he called a federal gag placed on foster care providers and the Trump administration’s refusing to respond to information requests.

The Cuomo administration didn’t immediately comment.

In the missive, the state demanded the foster care groups submit “copies of any contract your agency has executed with the federal government to provide direct or indirect care to any immigrant children,” as well as summaries of any verbal agreements.

The letters also asked for the name and age of each child, country of origin, language spoken, parents’ names and details of their separation. The agencies were told to respond by 10 a.m. Friday via encrypted email.

“Failure to respond timely to this request may result in the state’s suspension, revocation or limitation of your residential program’s operating certificate . . . and/or the referral of the matter for criminal prosecution,” acting Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole wrote.

A similar letter from the Office of Mental Health also warns of fines and suspensions but doesn’t threaten prosecution.

The letters were sent on the same day the governor said an estimated 700 immigrant children were being housed in New York. But he said specifics were vague because the Trump administration is refusing to respond to information requests.

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