The unaccompanied minors from Central America who have crossed into the US will cost state and local governments $761 million, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio reports this calculation is based on federal government data which indicates that 37,000 children have been placed with American families and, as such, are allowed to attend public schools.
Harris County, Texas has the largest concentration of unaccompanied minors attending public schools, but New York tops the list financially with the cost of immigrant students enrolling in its schools at $147.7 million, and where pupils with limited English skills and low incomes have a per student payment of $35,520.
Next, in regard to school costs, come Texas at $78 million; Maryland, $68 million; California, $64 million; New Jersey, $58 million; Florida, $57 million; Virginia, $54 million; Louisiana, $26 million; and Massachusetts, $25 million.
The immigrant children, says FAIR, will cost schools more than English-speaking students because of the extra language instruction that will be needed, but adds that most of these students have had little schooling and will need free lunches.
Texas, for one, has the challenge of a shortage of qualified bilingual teachers. FAIR says the federal government does not plan to provide any additional funding for the extra students, which will put a severe strain on school resources.
“We’re not doing American students any favors by dumping in tens of thousands of additional illegal alien children,” FAIR’s Bob Dane told Fox News.
Immigrant rights group disagree and say that this is a small price to pay for helping kids in need.
“We’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” said Jorge Baron, of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “We should be able to handle this if we focus our energy and some resources and we make sure that kids are treated well, and treated the way we, in America, believe kids should be treated.”
The state of education funding at this time, because of the recession along with other factors, is weak, says Dan Springer of Fox News. Thirty-five states are paying lower per pupil rates than they did in 2008, and school infrastructure is often in need of repair as buildings and properties of K-12 public school buildings have an average of 44 years of use. More than half of US schools need repair with that work and material costing $4.5 billion.
Miami-Dade officials and Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal are asking the federal government to pay up. Huppenthal wrote Education Secretary Arne Duncan:
“It is unreasonable to ask Arizona schools and Arizona taxpayers to pay for these expenses. These unaccompanied minors in question did not illegally cross in Arizona, but rather they were bussed into our state by the federal government.”
The immigrant children, in the meantime, are getting their day in court. Hearings on the immigration rights of these children are now taking place, and many say that it will take at least two years to get through all the red tape. FAIR is of the opinion that the children should be deported immediately.
“We want to have compassion for illegal alien kids,” Dane said, “but let’s not lose sight of the rule of law and compassion for American students.”