Do illegal immigrant children deserve quality education?
WORLD / U.S. – The debate rages about illegal immigration in the country, but one thing is certain: all immigrant children, whether legal or not, unaccompanied or accompanied, deserve access to a public education funded by American taxpayers.
Children not in local schools if under HHS care
The Department of Education stated this in a fact sheet it published recently. “All children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents’ actual or perceived national origin, citizenship or immigration status.”
The fact also stated that “under the law, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to care for unaccompanied children apprehended while crossing the border. While in care at a HHS shelter, such children are not enrolled in local schools but do receive educational services and other care from providers who run HHS shelters.”
Over 60,000 illegal immigrant children entering U.S.
The Department of Education has received many inquiries about what school districts and states around the country are supposed to do about the thousands of immigrant children pouring into the country. According to Pew Research Organization – through a Freedom of Information Act request that between October 2013 and the end of June 2014 – 57,525 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the Mexico-U.S. border. This compares to 38,759 during the fiscal year, ending in September 2013. According to a Washington Times article, that number had risen to more than 62,000 at the time the article was written in August 2014.
The fact sheet further states “while students are in HHS custody at HHS shelters, they will not be enrolled in the local school systems. When students are released to an appropriate sponsor, typically a parent, relative or family member, or other adult sponsor, while awaiting immigration proceedings, they have a right – just like other children living in their community – to enroll in local schools regardless of their or their parents’ actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status.”
“State laws also require children to attend school up to a certain age. A small number of children in HHS custody are placed in long-term foster care instead of being released to a sponsor. These children do enroll in public school in the community where their foster care is located. Children in all other care settings receive education at an HHS facility.”
School budget for immigrant children
Schools are certainly not new to providing education for immigrant and refugee – documented or not – children, but they face thousands more than they usually do this school year. The question for them is how to provide quality education amidst the reality of recently shrinking school budgets.
Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 Supreme Court case that established undocumented children’s right to public education in the United States, has recently been challenged in some localities. For example, Alabama required school administrators in 2011 to determine the immigration status of students enrolling in its schools. This led to a high rate of absenteeism among its Latino students. The court decision is interpreted by a few to say that it may be changed in the future if there is enough evidence that the quality of education will drop significantly if undocumented children enroll in school, according to the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Policy Center website.
The Department of Education is on-hand to take questions from districts and states and to find additional resources to provide extra services such as English language instruction. The No Child Left Behind Act provides money to school districts for English language learners, and states may also save money to instruct these students. Dalton Public Schools in Georgia used federal money to set up a Newcomer Center, which helps English language learners settle in to school, English, and their new country. Dalton schools also teach these students about technology as many of them do not have experience with computers, according to USA Today.
For help with additional questions regarding resources for unaccompanied children, please call the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-USA-LEARN or visit answers.ed.gov.