MIAMI – A flood of unaccompanied minors from Central America are forcing officials in the Miami-Dade school district to expand first year English language classes and make other special considerations this school year.
Miami Jackson High School Principal Carlos Rios told National Public Radio school officials have added six “English for Speakers of Other Languages” classes to handle roughly 170 new immigrants who enrolled this year, and are struggling to assess their educational needs.
In total, the Miami-Dade district has accepted about 1,400 children from Central America this year – or roughly 800 more students than last year, according to NPR.
“These kids basically all been here within a couple of months. I think the ones that have been here the longest have been here three months. We had one just enter a week ago,” Rios said. “Obviously the first week of school we saw about 100 students come in, and it hasn’t stopped. You see the office out there, there’s still parents coming in, there’s still students coming in.”
The Obama Administration claims nearly 40,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children have poured into the U.S. since the beginning of the year. Those children are typically detained by immigration officials after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and are then dispersed to areas like Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, D.C., and South Florida, where they’re turned over to friends or family, NPR reports.
“I came from Honduras … like six months ago I came here and I entered at school yesterday,” one student, who went to a bilingual school before moving to the U.S., told the news service.
The young man also spoke through an interpreter, who said the student claims his “parents were afraid because things aren’t that great in Honduras, and they would go to school with fear.”
Another student NPR spoke with left Juticalpa after he uncle was allegedly killed by gangs.
The female student, who is 17 years old with a fifth-grade education, reportedly survived a rape attempt during her migration through Mexico.
“When they got to Mexico she says there was an attempted rape and her cousin protected her from that situation. Scary,” the interpreter said.
Most student who arrive don’t know English, school officials told NPR, though some have a stronger educational background than others.
“Mostly level ones, no English. Some good background education where the language would be just the issue. And some with very little education where it’s a bigger battle,” said one of Miami Jackson’s English instructors.
NPR reports that the Miami-Dade district has a long history of educating non-English learners dating back decades.
“It began in the 60s with Cubans, and has continued since then with Haitians, Dominicans and Venezuelans, among others,” according to the news service.
“After a busy several weeks at Miami Jackson, the numbers of new students from Central America appear to be leveling off,” but school officials told NPR they’re “waiting for the next wave.”