English-Language Learners

Schools Could Face Another Influx of Unaccompanied Minors, Analysis Shows

By Corey Mitchell — April 09, 2015 1 min read
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An estimated 39,000 immigrant children will enter the United States as unaccompanied minors this federal fiscal year, according to a new analysis from the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based research group.

The extrapolation is based on detention figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the first five months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, Newsday reports.The number would represent a significant decrease from the 68,000 apprehended in fiscal year 2014.

The report focuses almost exclusively on migration enforcement and protection policies, but has ramifications for K-12 school districts likely to attract unaccompanied minors.

Many of the children and youths coming from Central America likely will relocate to districts where established immigrant communities already exist. Federal data show that Texas, California, Florida, and New York have attracted the largest number of unaccompanied minors.

The influx could further tax the resources of school systems welcoming new students who have entered the United States illegally, many of them English-language learners.

Under federal law, the students are entitled to a free public education regardless of their immigration status. The U.S. Department of Education has reminded school districts of their legal obligations when it comes to undocumented students and the additional funding available to districts serving large numbers of language-learners.

But while districts can estimate how many new students they will be absorbing from the border crisis, many won’t know the full scope of the resources they need until students show up.

“Important questions remain about whether the United States and its regional partners are doing enough to balance protection and enforcement concerns, and about how best to address the fundamental drivers of Central American migration to the United States,” the report’s author concludes.

“The county’s ongoing efforts to manage its borders and the well-being of thousands of vulnerable immigrants—many of them children—both hang in the balance.”

Overall, the report is critical of the Obama administration’s response to the surge of unaccompanied minors, arguing that the White House and federal agencies have “focused exclusively on immediate needs rather than longer-term solutions.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.