LYNN, Mass. – School officials in Lynn, Massachusetts are struggling to accommodate a flood of new unaccompanied minor immigrants seeking to enroll in high school, including many that appear to be full-grown adults.
“Some of them have gray hair and they’re telling you that they’re 17 years old and they have no documentation,” Jamie Cerulli, chief of staff for the Lynn mayor, told National Review Online. “If my children went to the public schools, I’d be very uncomfortable with all these unaccompanied minors (that) are placed in the ninth grade.”
According to the news site, federal policy prohibits schools from asking about students’ citizenship status or background, but the district has turned away some prospective immigrant students because they were obviously too old.
For others, district officials have visited the homes of the would-be students and attempted to verify their ages and have determined in at least one case that a student was between 30 and 35 years old, NRO reports.
National Review secured photos of two unaccompanied aliens living in Lynn who appear to be much older than they claim. One man, identified by NRO as Isai, was released from a Health and Human Services shelter shortly before his 18th birthday, according to HHS documents, but looks to be in his late 20s or 30s.
Another woman named Candelaria came to Lynn by way of El Paso, Texas to live with her sister, and her documents contend she’s 17 years old, though she looks much older.
“Upon reviewing the HHS documents (for Candelaria), Jessica Vaughn, Center for Immigration Studies’ director of policy studies, tells NRO that the presence of a fingerprint identification number on Candelaria’s record suggests she previously entered and exited the U.S.,” the news site reports.
“To me it calls into question how much screening is actually going on here and I believe these are clearly cases that are different from what we are lead to believe,” Vaughn told NRO. “There’s a lot of red flags here for me.”
The debacle in Lynn likely isn’t unique, and it’s becoming a bigger headache by the day. According to district admissions data, more than 500 new foreign students – including illegal immigrants, refugees, and foreign nationals – have flooded into the school district since 2010, Lynn Superintendent Catherine Latham told NRO.
“Last school year, nearly 250 students arrived from Guatemala, including 126 enrolled in the ninth grade,” NRO reports.
Latham told the news site that most of them came from the city of San Marcos and came to Lynn because of the city’s established Guatemalan population.
School officials are looking for ways to expand space in the district to accommodate the immigrant “minors,” and city officials said they’re cutting back to devote more resources toward those “minors.”
What makes the problem much worse, however, is that many of the undocumented “minor” students regularly drop out of school to work when the weather is nice, then come back to re-enroll, which is causing issues with the district’s enrollment data.
“Every time they drop out they are counted against us,” Latham told NRO. “There are issues in data that these students are creating for us that we’re trying to figure out what to do with now.”