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Somers Supervisor Discusses Lincoln Hall Issues

SOMERS, N.Y. – “The ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] told me today that the process of moving refugee kids into Lincoln Hall has been expedited,” said Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy at Thursday’s meeting of the Somers Town Board.

Murphy continued, “There are currently 37 boys at Lincoln Hall who’ve been placed there by the ORR while the government seeks their families or custodians or sponsors. The average stay is about 70 days. These boys are not integrated with the general population of the school and they have no interaction with boys who’ve been placed there by Family Courts. They don’t have criminal records, nor do they tend to go AWOL. And they’re not allowed to go independently into the community.”

For a number of years, the Lincoln Hall School for Boys has accommodated troubled juveniles from various parts of New York State, who have been remanded there by family courts. There have been several disciplinary disturbances at the school recently, as well as a few cases of runaways.

Councilman Richard Clinchy asked, “Will the refugee kids eventually make up the entire population of Lincoln Hall?”

Murphy responded, “Lincoln Hall says they’ll continue to take troubled kids from counties in the state, but New York City has a new policy of placing New York City boys in facilities closer to home.”

Councilman Morrissey asked, “When the refugee kids are reunited with their parents will they remain here?”

Murphy said, “That’s a good question to ask. My sense is that the ORR places them here in the United States. It’s a federal program.”

Clinchy said, “They need to explain it to us so we can make it clear what’s going on – who we’re talking about, what’s going to happen to these kids. These are common sense questions anyone would ask.”

“I’ve asked for someone from ORR to come here to update the board and answer questions. We’re trying to arrange that in the next week,” said Murphy.

The ORR is an adjunct of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While under the protection of the ORR, children receive food, clothing, medical care, socialization training, and education, including English as a second language.

ORR Deputy Director Kenneth Wolfe said, “Any time a child is in the United States illegally, without parent or guardian, the Customs or other law enforcement agency turns the child over to us for care. We usually keep them about two months, while they are awaiting the next step. The next step is usually unification with the child’s family.

He said, most of the unaccompanied refugee children are from Latin America. “They’re not violent or dangerous. They’re awaiting the next step. Usually, they go back home.”

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