Arizona wants the Obama administration to pay more than $1 million for educating the 202 illegal immigrant minors — and as many as 1,000 — that have been relocated to the Grand Canyon State after being detained at the U.S. border.
"Having to pay for the tremendous educational costs associated with the federal government’s failure to secure the border is not new to Arizona taxpayers or Arizona schools," Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said in a letter
to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Huppenthal's letter, which was sent Wednesday, was reported by The Arizona Republic
and The Washington Post.
The Republican faces a Tuesday primary against Diane Douglas, a former local school board member.
"What is new, though, and what is unprecedented, is the federal government’s actions to relocate at least hundreds of unaccompanied minors, mostly school-age teenagers, who have illegally crossed the border into other states, to Arizona’s cities and towns, where they will attend Arizona schools," Huppenthal said.
The letter comes as the Obama administration seeks to address the crisis caused by the more than 63,000 illegal minors who have been apprehended at the South Texas border between Oct. 1 and July 31. The White House estimates that as many 90,000 could be taken into custody by the end of next month.
Besides Mexico, many of the illegal immigrants come from such Central American countries as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Obama plans to announce executive actions to address the border controversy after Labor Day.
In the same period, 37,477 children have been placed with sponsors in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement
. Arizona has 203 minors, one fewer than Huppenthal cited in his letter.
Last week, the Education Department
sent out a fact sheet preparing school districts for the influx of illegal minors this fall. The document reminded officials that federal law
guarantees that all children in the United States have "equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents' actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status."
In his letter, Huppenthal told Duncan that the 202 minors have been placed with sponsors in Arizona and have registered for public school — but the state's Education Department estimates that as many as 1,000 children are unaccounted for.
"I am asking you and the U.S. Department of Education to provide solid information on the total number of children actually being placed in Arizona, and where they are being placed, and to pay for the added educational expense of those school-aged illegal immigrants being relocated to Arizona," Huppenthal said. "It is unreasonable to ask Arizona schools and Arizona taxpayers to pay for these expenses.
"These unaccompanied minors in question did not illegally cross into Arizona, but rather they were bussed into our state by the federal government."
Huppenthal requested a total of $1,026,564 from the federal government, based on a per-child cost of $5,082.
"It is unclear whether additional unaccompanied minors will be placed with Arizona sponsor families in the coming months," he wrote. "If so, federal funds should also accompany those minors."
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