America’s crisis at the border is now a crisis in New York’s public schools.
The Biden administration is flooding the communities of New York City and Long Island with thousands of unaccompanied minor immigrants trapped as they cross the border between Mexico and the United States, and they often arrive here, as The Post recently reported, via secret flights in the middle the night.
The arrival of these children, mostly teenage boys, to local schools creates a classroom crisis that strains educational resources, costs taxpayers millions in unbudgeted dollars, and helps recruit gangs, argue parents, teachers and immigration experts.
“We have the maximum capacity for children with special needs, but they will continue to send them,” lamented a high school teacher in Queens, among the communities hardest hit by illegal immigrant students.
New York City and Long Island are hotspots for sending children illegally crossing the border without guardians, according to the latest data from the US Department of Health.
Fifteen counties nationwide have received more than 1,000 unaccompanied children trapped at the border over the past year, HHS reported. The top five counties on the list are all in Texas, California and South Florida.
But four of those 15 counties are right here in New York: Suffolk (1,528), Queens (1,314), Nassau (1,064) and Brooklyn (1,046). The Bronx almost made the list of 461 unaccompanied students. New York is the only state in America with four counties that receives more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors, despite its 1,700-mile distance from the southern border.
The 1,528 children released in Suffolk County are the sixth most of any county in the country. The HHS list includes only those counties that received 50 or more minors in the 11-month period from October 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021. Manhattan and Staten Island were not on the list.
These numbers come on top of the legal and illegal immigrant children arriving, or already living here, with parents or a guardian. An estimated 504,000 undocumented immigrants live in New York City, according to a 2020 report from the city’s Department of Education.
The increase in migrant passages under the Biden administration has included reported 125,000 unaccompanied minors.
The resulting influx of unaccompanied children into local schools will be “a huge unfunded mandate and hugely unfair to the communities that are forced to accept these children,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy for the Center for Immigration Studies. “It poses huge challenges for schools, a disruption to the quality of education for all and sometimes even a crime problem that was not there before.”
A Brooklyn teacher said his ninth-grade English-language art class this year has 13 children from Ecuador alone, noting that educators are not familiar with a child’s legal status.
“I think it’s good for New York City because our enrollment numbers are falling. The school lost students during the pandemic,” the teacher said. “This kind of smooths out enrollment.”
But unaccompanied immigrant children often surprise administrators, teachers, students and parents when they suddenly show up at local schools, many in need of special education, minimal school time at home and unable to speak English. Some of these children, from Native American cultures, do not speak Spanish either, Vaughan notes.
“Most parents are not even aware that this is happening,” said Sam Pirozzolo, former president of the Community Education Council in Staten Island, while those aware of potential problems are afraid to raise politically incorrect concerns amid a angry cancellation culture banning dissent.
“Parents are under assault, period,” he said. “They are already called domestic terrorists to stand up for their children. It’s hard enough to worry about your own children, your own families and your local neighborhood policy, but then you have to worry about another issue. Parents are under siege, as it is.”
Flight tracking data suggest that around 2,000 minor migrants have arrived at Westchester County Airport on 21 flights since August 8th. Most were taken by bus to places in New York City and Long Island, The Post discovered.
“The city is not being notified by the federal government of arrivals,” City Hall officials told The Post. “But we monitor trends in the publicly released data and engage with local service providers, particularly legal service providers, to understand and troubleshoot any barriers to access to urban services.”
A majority of unaccompanied minors, 68 percent, are teenage boys from Central American countries, reports HHS, mostly Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, raising concerns that the program could serve as a pipeline for gang activity.
MS-13, a gang rooted in Central America and a magnet for teenage boys, has infiltrated local high schools in recent years with fatal results. The gang violence included a brutal quadruple homicide, three of the victims’ teens, in Central Islip, LI, in 2017.
MS-13 “has deliberately exploited” U.S. policy for unaccompanied minors to “grow their ranks in the United States,” Vaughan said. “New York happens to be one of the areas where MS-13 clique leaders have been asked to take advantage of our open border.”
Struggling schools and communities, those who can least afford to handle an influx of needy new students, end up carrying the bulk of the problem.
“The (unaccompanied minors) are not going to Eleanor Roosevelt High School, I must tell you,” the Queens teacher told The Post, referring to a high-ranking school with strict access standards.
“They’re never placed in screened schools. It’s basically just a cycle of dumping kids in schools that are unscreened… regardless of the geographic district or zone. All you do is create more of a gap in. a system that is already divided. “
The language barrier alone strains the city’s resources. The Brooklyn teacher told The Post that his high school has seen a recent influx of teens from El Salvador and that he is happy to accept them after enrollment fell during the pandemic. But now his school lacks teachers of English as a New Language (ENL) after two were displaced for being unvaccinated.
The city runs five ELL (English Language Learner) transfer schools for older teen immigrants, but four of them are in Manhattan, making it difficult for children to commute from immigrant hotspots, Queens and Brooklyn. And there are not enough places for all the newcomers, so they have to be placed in local schools that may not have the staff or resources to meet their needs, said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of the Immigrant Students’ Rights Project for Advocates for Children in New York.
“The biggest challenge is that the DOE does not have enough local schools to support these students,” she said. “There are not enough school placement opportunities, both for older and younger (students).”
Concerns about failing education, strained school resources and children falling victim to gangs come on top of the crushing financial burden new students impose on taxpayers.
Schools in New York City and Long Island spend an average of about $ 28,000 per year. student per year. The addition of nearly 6,000 students means $ 156 million in additional tax burden because the federal government pushed immigrant students into the communities.
The DOE declined to answer questions about funding to train unaccompanied minor immigrants.
“The federal government has come in and said ‘we need to socially develop your schools and there is nothing you can do about it,'” said Andrea Vecchio, a founding member of the East Islip Taxpayers PAC, which began fighting against the arrival. unaccompanied minors under the Obama administration.
Smaller communities, like those on Long Island, are fighting harder to meet the challenge of educating foreign students who show up at the door one day.
East Islip’s small school system of just 3,350 students had as many as 50 unaccompanied minors as late as 2019, before the pandemic sent children home. The current number is unknown, but “probably higher,” said former school board member Phil Montouri. Only 33 new students equate to about $ 1 million in extra annual costs – a large number for small communities.
Rodriguez-Engberg, whose group helps enroll newcomers in the city’s schools, said gang concerns are exaggerated.
“All the students we serve are very eager to be in school and waiting for enrollment to happen so they can have their lives together,” she said.
The city is opening its arms to all students, despite any outside concerns.
“New York City has and will always be an inviting city of immigrants, and we are proud to serve all young people in New York City – regardless of immigration status,” Department of Education spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon told The Post.
“By law, every child in our city has the right to a public school education, and we do not ask about immigration status. Education is a human right.”
Students in New York City are entitled to a free public education until the age of 21, which means that a 20-year-old man being cared for for MS-13 may be sitting in class next to a teenage girl, warns Vaughan .