HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – The massive wave of undocumented minors who flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border last year have put in motion “a real cascading set of effects” that are overwhelming schools and communities.
Fox News Latino is highlighting the impact of last year’s surge in a seven-part series, the most recent part focusing on schools struggling to comply with federal requirements to educate every child, whether they’re legal residents or not.
“After being held temporarily by the federal government – for about a month, on average – more than 50,000 of children have been released to sponsors, usually a parent or relative, as they await their immigration court proceedings,” according to the news site.
“Over the last year, teachers and administrators have been left to teach these kids English, even though some of them had never stepped foot inside of a classroom and many are in need of mental health counseling following their traumatic encounters with gang violence, sex trafficking or kidnapping in their native countries.”
President Barack Obama deemed the border surge an “urgent humanitarian crisis,” and the government spent $1 billion to address the problem, but only about $14 million has made its way to schools forced to bear the brunt of impact, Fox News Latino reports.
“We need more space, we need more teachers, we need more social workers, we need more staff,” Lamont Johnson, Hempstead, New York school board president told the news site.
Hempstead schools took in about 1,500 undocumented immigrant students for the 2014-15 school year, far more than the “several hundred” new students in a typical year, Johnson said. The influx forced the district to spend $6 million it didn’t expect to on special Spanish-speaking teachers, though classrooms still swelled to as many as 50 students per teacher.
“I feel like the federal government, once again, and the State Department of Education, they didn’t abandon me, per se, they abandoned the children,” Johnson said. “They have to make it easier for the children to succeed, not more difficult. And I think they made it more difficult.”
Hempstead schools were among 20 New York school districts investigated by the state for allegedly turning away undocumented immigrant students. State officials contend school leaders illegal inquired about students’ immigration status during enrollment, and denied or delayed enrollment of unaccompanied minors.
Johnson told Fox News Latino his district doesn’t discriminate, but also doesn’t have the resources to accommodate so many new students at one time.
“Our district never stereotyped anyone, discriminated against anyone,” he said. “It was more about being overwhelmed by the large amount of students coming in a short time.”
The problem, however, isn’t just resources.
In the Houston school district, which received about 2,000 new unaccompanied minors over the last school year, most newcomers were high school students, and schools are held accountable for their academic performance.
“It’s a challenge because most of our students are coming at the secondary level where the timeline for being ready for graduation I certainly shorter, and they have to live up to the same requirements for state, federal, and course assessments – all of which are in English,” Gracie Guerrero told Fox News Latino.
“There has to be some time for adjustment, there has to be some time to get them at a place to get them to learn,” she said. “Unfortunately, we aren’t afforded the time to get them situated or acclimated to a school system.”