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VIDEO: Brooklyn Public Library brings books and art materials to migrant children separated from their parents

October 10, 2018 By Liliana Bernal Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jessica Ralli, Brooklyn Public Library’s early literacy program coordinator, directs library workers and volunteers how to prepare backpacks for migrant children. Eagle photos by Paul Frangipane
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After hearing that the Trump administration had begun separating families along the southwest border in early May in an attempt to deter immigration, the Brooklyn Public Library started looking for a way to help migrant children separated from their parents.

Jessica Ralli, the library’s Youth and Family Services department coordinator, reached out to some of the lawyers who represent the children and found out that the kids and teenagers often have to wait for long periods in court, resulting in stress that can leave them deeply traumatized.

“We asked if it will be helpful to have a bag of age-appropriate books in Spanish, art materials and the lawyers were like ‘Yeah! It would be amazing,’” Ralli said.

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Ralli and her team sent 100 bags with reading and art materials for children ages 0 to 5 last summer, but later she learned that the majority of children who are being represented by lawyers in New York are older than 5.

“We realized that for years there have been children who have been crossing the border unaccompanied and that they’re also here alone and that they’re also going to immigration court,” she said. “So, we decided why wouldn’t we help all of them and do this for all of them?”

On Wednesday, a dozen people among library staff and volunteers stuffed another 300 backpacks with children’s books in Spanish and art supplies to be distributed among the children and adolescents placed in the care of organizations in New York.

Carefully selected by the library experts, the main goal of the books is to engage these minors for hours while they are waiting in court but also offer them materials that they can take to their temporary homes.

Settled thousands of miles away from their families, these children are at risk for severe and long-term physical, social and emotional injury, according to The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC).

“When I pictured these kids in court, scared, without their families and probably very bored during the course of their day, I hope that reading will be something that can help them escape if even for a few minutes,” said Kate Hosford, a picture book author and Brooklyn resident who volunteered at the event.

Organizations that advocate for immigrants’ rights and legal services, such as Kids in Need of Defense, Safe Passages Projects, The Door, Catholic Charities and Catholic Migration Services in Queens and Brooklyn will bring the books to the minors.

As hundreds of children prevail in shelters, foster care and detention in the U.S., and more than 200 are not eligible for reunification or release despite the “zero-tolerance” restraint ending in June, Ralli hopes that the library will get more support and they will be able to keep sending books as long as they are needed.


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