Governor Details Experience on CNN's New Day With John Berman
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appeared on CNN's New Day with John Berman. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo visited a facility in the New York City metropolitan area housing children who have been separated from their parents at the border. Previously, the Governor issued a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar demanding information on the immigrant children being housed in New York to ensure that appropriate services are being provided. Full text of the letter is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview with John Berman is available below.
John Berman: New York's Governor says there are about 700 children separated from their parents and living in New York shelters. But those are estimates. The Governor's office says they are not getting answers from the Health and Human Services department on just how many children are actually even in the state of New York. Joining us to discuss is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He visited a center on Thursday where children separated from their parents are currently living. Governor, I want to talk to you about what you saw and what you're going to do. First, we have so little vision, so little eyes on what's going on inside these facilities. Tell me what you saw.
Governor Cuomo: Well, that's part of the problem, right, John? Thank you for having me, by the way. I believe what happened is when the President started the zero-tolerance policy in April, they never really thought it through. The reasoning from General Kelly was apparently that it would serve as a deterrent and if they started arresting and separating, people would stop coming. That was wrong, obviously. HHS then had to start this shuttle of these 2,500 children or whatever the number actually is all across the country. New York State has a large foster care system so many of the children came to New York. The foster care agencies weren't prepared, they hadn't been notified, because no one expected this to happen. So, they are in different foster care facilities, different foster care facilities have different levels of services. Some of them have been placed from the foster care facilities into private foster care homes which are basically run by parents, individuals, and they've taken them into their homes. So, we're now trying to go backtrack and find out where were they sent and where have they gone? and are they getting the appropriate level of services. I sent a letter to HHS and said, number one, I don't know why you wouldn't tell us what children have been placed in the state. we will be willing to provide mental health services, et cetera, to these traumatized children at our cost and I've heard nothing back from HHS.
John Berman: What do you know? What do you know about these children at this point?
Governor Cuomo: I know nothing from HHS. All I know is what I'm now putting together from going to the foster care agencies and what I'm doing today is we're canvassing all the foster care agencies in our state to find out who they have there. A complication is, not only did the HHS send children to our state without our knowledge, they put a gag order on the foster care agencies and they don't want the foster care agencies telling us. Which is just bizarre, John. Why would you not want the state to help provide services, mental health services, counseling, reunification services at the state's expense? This is not the way it normally works.
John Berman: No. what happens is -- they get federal funding. These agencies aren't being forthcoming here in the state because they're getting federal funding. They don't want to jeopardize the federal funding by revealing information. Why do you think that the federal government doesn't want this information out there?
Governor Cuomo: John, there is no good answer. There is no good answer. I've been in the federal government for eight years, I was a cabinet secretary. I've been governor for eight years. I've worked with the federal government on everything from hurricanes to floods to health crises. Normally you work together. Why the HHS Secretary Azar, whose mission it is to protect children, would not use the states to help provide services is incredible to me.
John Berman: Are they safe? Do you know the kids are safe?
Governor Cuomo: You know, we have a good foster care system, but these are kids who are highly traumatized. I went to a facility yesterday. I mean just put this in real terms. You have a child who's with their parent. They show up at the border. They think they're going to a new country together with their parents and then they wind up in a cage, they wind up separated, and they wind up being put on an airplane or a bus and sent somewhere else in the country. They don't speak the language. They don't know where they are. The facility I was at said they have a high level of psychological trauma, anxiety disorders.
John Berman: Yeah, they don't know where their parents are either and their parents don't know where they are. As a political matter Governor, I am interested - what do you think should happen to these parents who cross the border with their children? Obviously at this point I think the country, there's consensus they shouldn't be separated from their children. That has stopped going forward. Do you think they should be held together in detention?
Governor Cuomo: Well, here's the problem, John, you have a little issue called the law, okay? And the federal government either knew this and ran in total disregard of the law or they're trying to create a crisis using these children as pawns to force the federal government - Congress to act. Remember what happened here. April 7, they start the zero tolerance policy. We're going to arrest everyone. We're tough. We're macho. We're strong on the border. We think it will be a deterrent. It wasn't a deterrent. They knew when they arrested the parents by law -
John Berman: Governor, I understand that, this was a choice. This was absolutely an administration choice to separate the parents from the children. What they say is what they call, and I hate this term, but for lack of better words and for lack of time, they say catch and release. What was in place before where they would just let the parents and children go wasn't working because a quarter of them they say, and the statistics show, were not showing up back in court as they were told to. So what do you do about that?
Governor Cuomo: John, it's baloney. First, their new solutions in the executive order and 20,000 on military bases, that also violates the law. So that's also a scam on the American people. And you know that we have many systems in this country where people are accused, they're arrested, they're accused of a crime, they're released in a number of fashions and they come back for their court date. You don't release them and say have a nice day and I hope you come back. We have people who we arrest every day in this state and in this country -
John Berman: But 40,000 of these people are not coming back.
Governor Cuomo: John, then you use one of the systems we know works. Bail systems work. Placement with model families work where they're put in the custody of a family and they have a 96 percent return rate. There are other ways to do this. I arrest people every day and they have to come back for a court appearance and they do because you have some connection. On the asylum program, they use ankle bracelets so they can monitor them. You have programs where they place them with American families and the American families are responsible for making sure they come back. And that has a 96 percent success rate. So it was not catch release or put them in a cage. That was never the choice. This was all politics. This was a President who ran on this issue and wants to say I'm going to be tough on the border. That's all this is. It's playing macho to a base that has been inflamed against immigrants, an infestation of immigrants. it's in violation of the law. There are much better ways to do it. And you lose 2,500 children as pawns. You put them all over the country. I'm saying as a Governor, they're in my state. It's my constitutional responsibility to take care of their health and welfare. Why wouldn't you tell me where they are? Give me one good reason why you won't tell me where they are.
John Berman: And Governor, we need answers on that. Where they are, we need to know how they're going to get back together with their family again. We thank you for joining us today. Let us know what the answers to those questions are if the federal government will tell you but so far they have not. Governor Cuomo, thanks so much.
Governor Cuomo: If they won't tell me, John. I'll find out on my own.
John Berman: Governor Cuomo, thanks for being with us.