Recent budget restrictions have led to the termination of federal funding of legal services and English courses for immigrant children. The federal government defends the decision, stating that such action is mandatory at the moment. While these new federal measures are being introduced to the public, an increasing number of unaccompanied minors is arriving at the U.S. border.
The new federal policy has raised concerns among personnel in the facilities that provide help and educational services to immigrants due to possible violations of the Flores Agreement. This legal document, dating back to 1997, demands from U.S. authorities to provide each unaccompanied minor with appropriate accommodation, food, medication, clothing, and dental care. Furthermore, the agreement states that unaccompanied minors need to be provided with English lessons, educational services, and access to counseling services. Since the new federal policy excludes funding of English language training, members of the community are worried about a possible breach of the Flores Agreement. Alongside educational services, underage immigrants are left without proper recreational activities as well, due to these budget restrictions.
Since the number of unaccompanied minors has significantly increased in the recent period, the government has stated that it’s no longer able to fund English language training and other services intended for immigrants. The government explains that the federal budget can no longer meet these increasing demands. These new developments gave a lot more responsibility to the nonprofit organizations since now, they are the only ones who can keep the program of these educational services alive. Some of these organizations are already stepping forward and accepting the new terms — they will continue and increase the funding of services for immigrant minors.
The whole crisis started to boil up during the last month when over 11,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border. At this moment, the federal government was already taking care of more than 13,000 minors that had been left in the U.S. without parental supervision. Since the number of unaccompanied minors almost doubled, a crisis arose.
However, the Health and Human Services are still taking minors in their care. The U.S. takes two primary steps in dealing with minor migrants left without parental supervision; after the Border Patrol identifies a migrant as an unaccompanied minor, the Health and Human Services take the child into their custody. Later on, the Health and Human Services find these children the proper housing and transfer them to the housing providers. These providers are often private companies or nonprofit organizations.
Administration for Children and Families warns of the humanitarian crisis that goes on every day on the U.S. border. The agency states that something needs to be done quickly — there is a need not just for more significant funding but also for better organizations that can use those funds in the most effective way. The Health and Human Services assess that they need approximately $3 million to provide only the primary care for immigrant children.
The shelters that provide immigrants with educational services are now left to their own devices. Until now, the government has reimbursed the expenses — including teachers’ salaries — to all of these shelters. However, the new federal policy leaves these shelters without any compensation from the government. The providers in these shelters are now worried about the educational advancement of immigrant children. The officials in charge of these shelters state that a number of migrant children need to improve their English and get proper education. Since the new federal policy has been adopted, it’s no longer clear how these minors are going to have access to educational services.
However, the issues caused by budget restrictions don’t affect only educational services. These restrictions may result in termination of recreational and physical activity programs for minor immigrants. The nonprofit organization Southwest Key hopes that their dialogue with federal officials can result in a deal that would help solve this crisis. U.S. Representative for Arizona, Raul Grijalva, has also expressed his concerns. He warns that the lack of proper education can decrease the odds of immigrant minors having truly better lives. Grijalva believes that the termination of educational services for immigrant minors sabotages the asylum process.