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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

OPINION:

If we only listen to what the mainstream media and the open-borders lobby have to say, mass immigration is an unqualified good with no negatives worth mentioning, and anyone who disagrees with that sentiment is an anti-immigrant xenophobe.

The reality, however, is that unmanaged mass immigration – both legal and illegal – comes with significant fiscal and social costs. In a new study, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) shines a light on one such cost: The impact of attempting to educate 5.1 million students who cannot speak English fluently.


Using 2020 data, FAIR estimated that it costs American public schools just over $78 billion a year to serve this burgeoning population, up $18.8 billion since 2016. At this point, more than one in ten U.S. public schoolchildren are enrolled in LEP programs, with the children of illegal aliens constituting a majority of that cohort. Additionally, given that 2.3 million illegal aliens have successfully entered the United States since President Joe Biden took office, the number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students using our schools, and therefore the cost to educate them, has certainly gone up even more since then.

Integrating immigrants who speak English poorly, if at all, into the fabric of American society has always been a challenge. However, the issue was exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision, which saddled American taxpayers – particularly at the state and local levels – with an unfunded mandate to educate the children of illegal aliens, most of whom inevitably require LEP services.

Despite LEP students costing roughly 20% more to educate than English-fluent pupils, there is virtually nothing to show for that investment. “By every possible measure,” the report points out, “LEP students develop poorly over time and across all subject areas. Ill-designed and expensive LEP programs soak up scarce school funding, while the students they are designed to help miss benchmarks and hold back their peers.” In Texas, a border state with nearly 3 million illegal aliens, nearly 70% of the students who are initially designated as LEP fail to gain English proficiency after five years. In 2000, that rate was only 38%.

This impact is felt far beyond traditional “border states.” For example, school districts in Indiana have seen their LEP enrollment swell from approximately 27,000 in 2016 to nearly 78,000 now – a nearly threefold increase in just six years. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita recently addressed the immigration situation in his state, saying “We are all border states, including Indiana.” In the sanctuary city of New York, Mayor Eric Adams claims that the city has reached a “breaking point” and that “our schools are going to be impacted.” The city will need to accommodate more than 1,000 new illegal alien minors who’ve arrived over just the past couple of months alone.

What is the solution to this rapidly growing education crisis? To begin with, the flawed Plyler v. Doe ruling must be overturned or, at a minimum, significantly reformed. States and localities should not be forced by the federal government to provide benefits to illegal aliens.

Second, we must secure our border and enforce our immigration laws so that we are not faced with the dilemma of what to do with so many children here illegally. Since cities can’t accurately plan for future illegal immigration, there is no way for them to appropriately prepare their schools for the massive influx of LEP students caused by the ongoing border crisis.

Finally, the U.S. needs to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, whose honorable intentions have since been hijacked as an avenue to resettle hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) inside the United States. This Act needs to be amended so that, whenever possible, UAMs can be safely reunited with family members in their home country.

Without a strong public school system, it will become nearly impossible for future generations to find success in this country. The current education crisis, exacerbated by non-existent border security and irresponsible immigration policies, is harming innocent students – native and foreign-born alike – who have no say in how our federal policies are administered. Schools across the country are reaching a breaking point, and our children will pay a heavy price if the federal government continues to ignore the impact of its disastrous immigration agenda.

• Spencer Raley is the Director of Research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).


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