Immigration
4:17 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Schools a Haven for Many Unaccompanied Minors

Children at a rally in New Haven to support Central American migrant youth.
Children at a rally in New Haven to support Central American migrant youth.
Credit Josh Nilaya / WNPR

For tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border, primarily from Central America, U.S. schools are one of the few government institutions where they are guaranteed services.

Federal officials reminded districts that a 1982 Supreme Court ruling gives all children the right to enroll in school, regardless of immigration status.

While their cases are processed, most are released to family members or sponsors who are told the children must be enrolled in school. 

School districts in metropolitan areas like Miami, Houston, and Washington have seen an uptick in the number of these students, and anticipate more could enroll this fall.

They often need special resources like English language and mental health services already strained by budget cuts. Many are at risk for dropping out.

Last May, federal officials reminded districts that a 1982 Supreme Court ruling gives all children the right to enroll in school, regardless of immigration status.

In related news, House Republicans are preparing to recommend National Guard at the border and speedier returns of Central American youths as their response to the immigration crisis on the border. 

At the same time, Republicans are working to significantly pare down President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request for the border, hoping to act within weeks on a smaller spending bill along with a package of policy changes. The action comes as lawmakers say Congress must swiftly act to deal with tens of thousands of unaccompanied youths from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala arriving at the border.