Illegal Migrant Wave Overwhelming School Districts

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 06:27 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Municipal school systems around the country are gearing up to absorb tens of thousands of children who arrived illegally from Central America for the new school year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The influx, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, will stress the resources of schools from large metropolitan areas to small towns from California to New York. A minimum of 37,000 children who have been placed with sponsors as of July 31 are eligible to attend public school, according to the Journal.

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Among the systems expected to be most heavily impacted are Texas, where over 5,000 illegal migrant pupils will be showing up for school as well as New York and California, which will each get about 4,000 arrivals, the Journal reported.

Many will come with psychological scars requiring trauma counseling. Almost all will need remedial help in learning English. Every single one will have access to subsidized nutritional programs.

Public schools are obligated by the federal government to enroll the children regardless of their immigration status. Alberto Carvalho of Miami-Dade County Public Schools said, "We have both a legal and moral obligation to teach these kids," the Journal reported.

Superintendent James Meza of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish Public School System said, "I don't think we can handle it without hiring additional personnel." Some schools put the added cost at $2,000 per pupil.

"If the federal government is going to make an investment to increase Border Patrol and the number of officials interviewing children, there ought to be an investment to address the additional cost of teaching them," Carvalho said.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the government will be looking to help localities identify federal funds that may already be available, the Journal reported.

It will take a while to assess the full impact of the latest wave of unaccompanied illegal minors on school systems. But "make no mistake," Carvalho said, "they will arrive," the Journal reported.

Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith said, "It is a shame that states and communities across the country now face the possibility of increased demand on already-overcrowded classrooms." He added, "Regrettably, American taxpayers will be asked to foot the bill," the Journal reported.

Meanwhile, New York City made clear that the public schools were available free of charge to all children regardless of their immigration status. The City University of New York accepts undergraduates who are illegally in the country, The New York Daily News reported. And the city will also help youngsters tap into free legal immigration services and food stamps.

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