As U.S. presidential candidates fight over the best way to address the influx of Central Americans across the Southwest border — with debate about building walls and deporting immigrants — the nation’s public schools have opened their doors, taking responsibility for helping tens of thousands of children find their footing here.
It’s not an easy task.
Many of the new arrivals don’t speak much English and are behind academically. They often come with scars, having fled desperate poverty or violence or both. Many endured difficult journeys, sometimes leaving their families behind or rejoining parents in the United States after years of separation. And U.S. schools, already strapped for resources, are trying to provide special services, including English-language instruction and mental-health care.
The schools have to, because it’s the law: Children who are living in this country have a right to a public education, regardless of their immigration status. But for many educators it’s also more than a legal obligation, it’s the moral thing to do.
“The United States is founded on human rights,” said Sandra Jimenez, the principal of High Point High School in Prince George’s County, Md., a Washington suburb where the immigrant population has grown rapidly. “The only reason these people are here is because they are desperate. These people are coming to survive.”
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