U.S. House GOP spotlights immigration effects on schools as Biden issues asylum order

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Capitol is shown on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans on Tuesday argued that migrants coming from the southern border and into K-12 schools have strained resources and teacher-student ratios while leaving a “staggering” financial impact throughout the United States.

The hearing in the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education came the same day as President Joe Biden’s executive order, which will shut down asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexico border when the daily unauthorized crossings surpass 2,500 migrants.

The GOP has made immigration a central part of its platform, and former President Donald Trump —  the presumptive Republican nominee — has committed to cracking down on immigration if he is reelected in November, including mass deportation.

“President Biden has failed to secure the southern border, and the surge of migrants places an immense strain on cities, states and local school districts,” said U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean, chair of the subcommittee and a Republican from Florida.

“If we assume that every (undocumented) immigrant child encountered by border patrol enters the school system, the cost nationwide is easily over $2 billion,” he said. Though Bean did not cite a source, similar statistics appear in a February fact sheet from the Heritage Foundation.

The foundation is advising states to “require school districts to collect enrollment data by immigration status,” make that data publicly available and pass legislation that would require public schools to charge tuition for “unaccompanied migrant children” and children residing in the United States with undocumented parents.

Democrats questioned the intention of the GOP-led subcommittee hearing, pointing out that immigration policies are outside of the committee’s jurisdiction.

Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Oregon, said the committee should instead focus on “the development and support of our nation’s public education system” and “uphold the fundamental right of all children within our borders to receive a free, quality public education.”

Bonamici and other Democrats referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 landmark ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which entitles children in the U.S. to a public education, regardless of their immigration status.

Overcrowded schools

Bean said challenges for schools when educating children who are undocumented include strains on teacher-student ratios, overcrowded classrooms and the need for new facilities.

“Bottom line — it’s wreaking havoc on our school systems across America … Teaching’s hard enough, but without the unknown factor of just massive numbers coming in, it’s almost an impossible task,” Bean said in his closing remarks.

The hearing featured testimony from Danyela Souza Egorov, vice president of New York City’s District 2 Community Education Council; Amalia Chamorro, director of the Education Policy Project at UnidosUS; Sheena Rodriguez, president of Alliance for a Safe Texas; and Mari Barke, trustee for California’s Orange County Board of Education.

Chamorro said “educating immigrant children is a smart economic investment.” UnidosUS is the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

Chamorro also said it’s up to Congress to “ensure that schools have the resources they need to support all students” and “address our chronically underfunded public education system.”

But Egorov, Rodriguez and Barke said local problems are mounting.

Rodriguez noted that the “the grim negative impact of the border crisis on public schools reaches far beyond the quality of education and financial strain.”

Barke said “our educational systems in Orange County in California are undeniably strained, and the governor and legislature are preparing to cut billions of dollars in the state budget.”

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the broader House committee and a Republican from North Carolina, said it is difficult to find English as a Second Language, or ESL, teachers.

Twenty-six states projected a shortage of ESL teachers in the 2023-2024 school year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

“I’m from North Carolina, and it’s already hard enough to find any teachers, let alone teachers who can speak other languages in addition to English, and we know that people are coming in from 160 different countries, so it is not just Spanish and English that we need, but it’s lots of different languages,” Foxx said.

The post U.S. House GOP spotlights immigration effects on schools as Biden issues asylum order appeared first on Wisconsin Examiner.