The Obama administration is prepping the nation's school systems for a huge influx of illegal immigrant children this fall as they await hearings that could lead to deportations.
"All children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents' actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status," the Education Department stated in a fact sheet.
The document was sent to states and schools on Monday, The Hill reports.
"This includes recently arrived unaccompanied children, who are in immigration proceedings while residing in local communities with a parent, family member, or other appropriate adult sponsor," it said.
The illegals are under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services while awaiting the deportation hearings, and they will be educated at the more than 150 shelters throughout the country where they are being held, according to the sheet.
The minors are turned over to DHS within 72 hours after being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents. The temporary housing costs taxpayers $252 per child per day.
Nearly 63,000 children have been arrested in South Texas after crossing the U.S. border from Mexico since Oct. 1. The administration estimates that more than 90,000 could be detained by the end of next month.
Most of the minors come from such Central American countries as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Many also come from Mexico.
President Barack Obama has dubbed the situation "a humanitarian crisis" — and officials and immigration reform advocates contend that illegals are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.
But Republicans have attributed the deluge to the White House's lax enforcement of immigration laws. They also point to reports in Central American media touting administration deportation policies that benefit some illegals.
Before leaving for its August recess, the House of Representatives approved $694 million for Obama to address the crisis. The funds were coupled with legislation that could end up deporting more than 700,000 migrants who received temporary work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program the president created by executive order in 2012.
However, the Senate was in recess and did not act on the House bill this summer.
Obama is considering several executive actions on the crisis. They are expected be announced after Labor Day.
As of July 31, as many as 37,477 children have been released to adult sponsors, usually a parent, relative, or family friend, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, The Hill reports. They have been settled in all 50 states — mostly Texas, California, and New York — and all would be eligible for public school.
In addition, the average wait time for a deportation hearing is 500 days, making it very likely the minors would spend the next school year in the United States. More than 350,000 cases are pending in immigration court, according to news reports. The system has 260 judges nationwide.
The administration has given priority to the children from Central America in an effort to speed up the deportation process. The Department of Homeland Security is also working to hire more immigration judges.
"We have begun to receive inquiries regarding educational services for a specific group of immigrant children who have been in the news — children from Central America who have recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border," the fact sheet said.
Its goal is to provide information "to help education leaders better understand the responsibilities of states and local educational agencies … in connection with such students, and the existing resources available to help educate all immigrant students — including children who recently arrived in the United States."
The Education Department's sheet starts out as saying, "Schools in the United States have always welcomed new immigrant children to their classrooms," noting that more than 840,000 immigrant students were in the United States — along with over 4.6 million English learners.
The document notes that illegals are vaccinated while in DHS custody, and it includes answers to frequently asked questions by school administrators and teachers. It also contains links to other legal and reference information.
"Under federal law, states and local educational agencies are obligated to provide all children — regardless of immigration status — with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level," the fact sheet said in response to one question. "This includes children such as unaccompanied children who may be involved in immigration proceedings."
The sheet follows a letter the Education and Justice departments sent to state and school officials in May that warned of "student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation or lead to the exclusion" of illegal minors.
The challenge of educating illegals has raised other problems for some strapped school districts.
Officials of the Boston suburb of Lynn, Mass., disclosed earlier this month that many adult illegals were posing as minors to enroll in the district's overcrowded public high schools.
"Some of them have had gray hair, and they're telling you that they're 17 years old and they have no documentation," Jamie Cerulli, the chief of staff for Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, told The National Review. "If my children went to the public schools, I'd be very uncomfortable with all of these unaccompanied minors [that] are placed in the ninth grade."