Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Since 2013, more than 5,000 migrant children placed in NJ

Published:Tuesday | May 3, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Melisa Jimon Reynoso, right, and her brother, Brian Jimon Reynoso, 3, centre, sit with Candelario Jimon Alonzo, 16, left, at their home in Memphis, Tennessee. Jimon joined his relatives when he arrived in Memphis after fleeing Guatemala. Local school officials have kept him out of the classroom since he tried to enroll in January.


The federal government has placed more than 5,000 migrant children from Central America with adult sponsors in New Jersey since the fall of 2013, where they are expected to attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.

America's schools remain one of the few government institutions where migrant youths are guaranteed services, but the federal government has extended little money or oversight to monitor whether that happens, in part because schools are locally governed.

During the dramatic surge of illegal crossings at the border mostly starting in 2013, the education and justice departments issued joint guidance reminding districts that a 1982 Supreme Court ruling established that states cannot deny children a free public education, regardless of immigration status.

Districts found to have broken the law can be forced to change their enrolment policies, but making that happen is not easy.

The American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter has been at the forefront in the state in pushing to make sure that school districts comply with the law for all immigrant children in the country illegally, not just unaccompanied minors, going so far as to sue eight school districts in 2014 for policies that included barriers to allowing them to enrol.