Unaccompanied minors expected to attend public schools

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POSTED: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 4:53pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 8:41am

Most schools in the Rio Grande Valley start the year near the end of August. 

It's likely that some of them will be enrolling unaccompanied minors from this year's immigrant surge. Texas is in custody of the most unaccompanied children of any state this year. 

The Lone Star State has been ground zero for the recent immigrant influx. It's likely that if the children have a notice to appear in court, they would also attend a public school in the interim. 

"These are kids that are going to enter into our school system," said Dr. Bob Sanborn, CEO of the advocacy group Children at Risk. "I think depending on the school system that they enter, you have some large school systems like we see in Dallas, and in Houston, and some of the districts around them, where this is just a bump in the road.... There may be a bit of an impact in some smaller communities that aren't used to have these kids."

Schools in Texas are not allowed to ask for immigration status when students enroll. The Mission and McAllen school districts say they are not expecting a large number of unaccompanied children to sign up. 

Some immigration cases could take years before going to court. That leaves some officials questioning how to proceed. 

"Public schools open in about a week for many of our school districts," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said. "They'll be showing up to school with no advance warning to local school districts, we don't know their health care needs, we don't know if they'll need help during a hurricane evacuation. That's not acceptable."

The Office of Refugee Resettlement does not make a more detailed breakdown of where the unaccompanied children go. Many districts will have to wait until the school year begins to see how many arrive. 

Some of them may be behind their classmates because of the different education standards in their home countries. Most of them will probably have a language barrier to contend with. 

"These districts are used to English-language learners coming in, children who speak other languages," Sanbord said. "In Texas we're used to kids who speak Spanish, and so I think it's not going to be as big of a problem as some might guess."

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