Confusion, High Costs Mar Influx of Immigrant Kids

illegal_immigrant_students

Between January 1 and August 31, 1,414 children up to age 18 were brought to Louisiana, and almost all were from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. They are living with sponsors or relatives, and it is costing the state and local governments millions of dollars to care for the children — with no money earmarked for that purpose.

The children, for the most part, were sent to escape the crime, violence, and human trafficking that is rampant there, says Mike Hasten, writing for USA Today. Twenty-five percent of the children are under the age of 14.

David Aguillard, executive director of Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge, says he is often asked “What kind of parent would do that?”, to which he replies “What kind of parent would not?”. Education is one of the largest expenses for immigrant children and, added to that is the fact that states are not allowed to withhold funds for educating illegal immigrants. According to federal law, all children are eligible for a free education, regardless of their immigrant status. State law requires that all school-age children must attend school starting in kindergarten. So far, Louisiana has spent an estimated  $10 million educating illegal immigrant children, which, says the Department of Education, will have to be absorbed into the schools’ current budgets.

“While Louisiana receives federal funds to support Limited English Proficient students, the state is not anticipating any increased federal funds for unaccompanied immigrant children in the 2014-2015 school year. The Department is examining if funds not yet allocated by the state are available within the existing federal Title III, English Language Learner program in order to assist these districts in serving these students.”

The Jefferson Parish School System is having to hire dozens more teachers to teach English to the more than 500 illegal immigrant children who have relocated in the parish, costing the parish $4.6 million for this year, writes Elizabeth Harrington, reporting for The Washington Free Beacon.

“It’s a very significant cost to the Louisiana taxpayer, and that’s just education,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)told the Washington Free Beacon on Thursday. “We have plenty of other categories that are impacted, like health care, emergency room and other health care, and other benefits. That’s just public education.”

Louisiana is one of the top ten states with the largest number of unaccompanied alien children, according to numbers published by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). This year the state will pay $25.8 million to educate 1,250 illegal immigrant children.

Vitter blames the increase in the number of children entering the US. on Obama administration policies and is concerned about the executive action that the president has said will be coming up this fall.

The local processing plants in Sussex County, Delaware have long been an attraction to Spanish-speaking migrants, says Warren Mass of New American. The school districts in the county had an early learning program for non-English speaking students, but were unprepared for the influx of 70 new Hispanic children, most of whom were from Guatemala, who enrolled at Sussex Central High School.

Carl Meacham, the director of the Americas Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said in September:

The situation in Central America hasn’t changed; we have the same problems of insecurity and violence, the lack of govern-ability continues and jobs are still a problem — there is no work for young people who are members of cartels or street gangs.

Meacham added that although unaccompanied youths illegally entering the US has lessened in recent months, numbers will increase again when the weather is cooler. CSIS thinks the solution is for the Obama administration to send aid to the Central American nations to combat the gang activity that has caused many youths to flee their countries.

In an article written by Cole Avery for The Times Picayune, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge) and Rep. Vance McAllister (R-Swartz) state that they do not believe the federal government is doing enough to track the status of unaccompanied alien children in Louisiana. These two lawmakers, along with several other Republican representatives wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Sec. Sylvia Burwell to see how the 1,200 children in Louisiana were being tracked. Burwell said relatives of the children are given preference to take the children into their homes. It is the sponsors who are responsible for bringing the children to immigration proceedings.

The reality is that families of these children are in the US illegally, also, and are fearful of court procedures. Approximately 70% of immigrant families never show up for appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“This is total government failure. We wonder why we have a border problem,” McAllister said. “It’s agencies out of control. That’s the common sense that’s missing in Washington.”

Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden) says:

“It’s just another dereliction of duty by this administration regarding illegal immigration. And let’s not ignore the hypocrisy of HHS claiming that it is ‘bound’ by law to operate this way, when it was the president’s selective enforcement and disregard of that same law that created this border crisis.”