Clarification: A earlier model of this story incorrectly acknowledged the rationale why reunification of the households was crucial, based mostly on info from Westchester County Government George Latimer.
A weekend social media frenzy relating to individuals being transported on the Westchester County Airport was attributable to a federal operation to reunify unaccompanied minors on the U.S.-Mexico border with their households, the Division of Well being and Human Providers mentioned Monday.
On Sunday, County Government George Latimer confirmed through Fb that the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Providers staged operations on the county-owned airport.
“It is a federal operation. The county has no capability to amend it, cease it or comply with it,” Latimer instructed The Journal Information/lohud Monday morning whereas he was on trip within the Adirondacks. “My understanding of the impacts is there aren’t any direct impacts. They don’t seem to be sure for Westchester.”
Images circulated on social media, which had been shared by county Republican officers, appeared to indicate individuals being transported on the airport at evening. Accompanying statements alleged the individuals had been within the nation illegally, had been unvaccinated and had been being dropped at Westchester.
An HHS spokesperson mentioned these allegations aren’t correct.
The operations are a part of HHS’s obligation to take care of unaccompanied youngsters till they’re unified with a mother or father or vetted sponsor, an HHS spokesperson mentioned in an announcement. The method, achieved via the Workplace of Refugee Resettlement, takes about 14 to 24 days earlier than they’re linked with a member of the family or sponsor throughout the U.S.
“Over the past week, unaccompanied youngsters handed via the Westchester airport en path to their closing vacation spot to be unified with their mother and father or vetted sponsor,” the assertion mentioned.
No baby who’s transported has examined constructive for COVID-19, and HHS follows protocols to cut back the unfold of the novel coronavirus. In the meantime, the overwhelming majority of youngsters over 12 years previous are vaccinated, the spokesperson mentioned, which falls according to Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention steering.
It is unclear what number of youngsters have gone via Westchester County Airport, however a spokesperson confirmed no less than one flight occurred final week. The unification course of consists of a number of companies.
On Monday afternoon, former county government Rob Astorino, a Republican candidate for governor in 2022, held a press convention alongside Christine Sculti, who’s trying to unseat Latimer, exterior of the Westchester County Airport. They questioned county officers’ information of the matter, their vaccination standing, and the place the passengers had been headed.
Astorino first publicized the matter on a conservative discuss radio present on Friday, then he pointed to a SwiftAir Boeing 737 airplane that will arrive at 2:47 p.m. Monday from Jacksonville, Florida. Flight logs confirmed that airplane began Monday morning at Alexandria Worldwide Airport in Louisiana. On Sunday, it left McAllen, Texas, a border metropolis, to Midland, Texas, earlier than attending to Alexandria. Journeys earlier than that had been in Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico.
Quickly after, The Journal Information/lohud noticed dozens of younger individuals, principally teenagers sporting face masks, disembark from the SwiftAir airplane that left Jacksonville, Florida. Three chartered buses went in a Westchester County police convoy onto the tarmac, close to personal hangars.
It is unclear if youngsters seen Monday afternoon had been a part of HHS operations.
“This has been fixed,” Astorino mentioned about 50 yards from the airplane, proper exterior of the airport fencing. It was his first time viewing the method in individual, though he wouldn’t say how he acquired the knowledge. “So this isn’t a one-off. This has been occurring now nearly every day.”
Officers watching the kids disembark additionally mentioned this has been occurring nonstop for the final week. A civil air patrol official, not licensed to talk publicly, additionally confirmed native airport officers had been unaware of actions there.
In 2018, Westchester companies did home some youngsters taken from their mother and father on the southern border beneath Trump administration insurance policies of household separation, as The Journal Information/lohud reported. Latimer mentioned that’s not the case.
On Wednesday evening whereas driving upstate, Latimer mentioned he acquired considerations about airport exercise, however he thought it was as a result of noise or development. By the weekend, he confirmed HHS operations on the airport.
So far, Latimer has not acquired phrase from the HHS. He deliberate to ship a letter with questions concerning the operations later Monday, and he mentioned the county will launch the company’s responses publicly. He pointed to different airports across the U.S. that federal officers have used to move individuals held on the southern border.
In the meantime, different high native GOP officers posted concerning the airport operations, saying it was as a result of county’s sanctuary coverage. Latimer mentioned the county has no sanctuary coverage, however in 2018, the county enacted laws limiting info it shared with federal immigration authorities and barred county staff from asking about an individual’s citizenship in most circumstances.
“These actually are considerations with respect to public well being and public security,” mentioned Sculti.
In an announcement, New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, a Republican congressional candidate difficult Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, mentioned that the Biden administration was sending undocumented individuals from the border to the airport. Yorktown Supervisor Matthew J. Slater additionally wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra inquiring about actions taken on the airport.
Latimer referred to as the allegations rhetorical factors to gin up the Republican base.
“This is a matter that must be handled intelligently, with compassion,” he mentioned. “Not some frenzy.”
On the airport, buses and a gasoline truck had been moved to obscure view of individuals getting off the Boeing. The three buses, with teenagers inside, then left via a aspect entrance on Tower Street, away from the principle arrival space of the airport. It’s unclear the place they went subsequent.
Eduardo Cuevas covers range, fairness and inclusion in Westchester and Rockland counties. He may be reached at EMCuevas1@lohud.com and adopted on Twitter @eduardomcuevas.