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Kathleen Rice

07/27/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/27/2021 09:13

Rice, Garbarino Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support School Districts with Influx of Unaccompanied Migrant Children

GARDEN CITY, NY - U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY-04) and Rep. Andrew Garbarino (NY-02) introduced H.R. 4667, the Public School Emergency Relief Act, a bipartisan bill which would authorize new federal funding to support local school districts educating unaccompanied migrant children.

Current federal policy is to place unaccompanied children with family members or relatives living in the United States. Long Island has a large population of immigrants from Central America, where many of these unaccompanied children arrive from after fleeing gangs, cartel violence and poverty in the region. Federal law requires that all children, regardless of immigration status, receive an elementary and secondary education, but school districts do not currently get additional federal aid when these students arrive. School districts on Long Island have taken in these children over the last several years, and many local districts are now preparing for the arrival of additional unaccompanied children for the 2021-2022 school year.

'We have a moral responsibility to take care of the children who arrive in our country, separated from their families, and seeking safe refuge after escaping extreme poverty and violence,' said Rep. Kathleen Rice. 'While we must address the roots of this problem in Central America, the federal government must do more to help these children once they are already here. Local school districts need federal funding to provide these children with a good education and a chance at a better life. This bipartisan bill that I am leading with Representative Garbarino will provide our schools with the funding they need to ensure every child, regardless of immigration status, can reach their full potential.'

'Federal policy mandates that unaccompanied minors coming across our southern border be placed with family members or sponsors around the United States,' said Rep. Andrew Garbarino. 'It should be the federal government who picks up the tab for educating these children once they are here, not Long Island taxpayers. While it is imperative that we address the unprecedented border crossings we have seen in recent months, this bill is a commonsense solution to ensure that the influx of migrants does not place any further burden on our public schools.'

Superintendents from Freeport and Hempstead applauded the legislation introduced by Rice and Garbarino.

'We have always welcomed all children and believe it is our responsibility to educate all students to achieve their fullest potential,' said Superintendent of Freeport Schools, Dr. Kishore Kuncham. 'But school districts alone cannot adequately support the cost of addressing the needs of unaccompanied minors who are joining our schools. Now is the time to ensure that school districts receive the necessary funding and proper support to meet the needs of these children, while not overburdening our community residents who support our schools. This bill introduced by Congresswoman Rice and Congressman Garbarino to fund this important issue through emergency impact aid is greatly appreciated and we thank her on behalf of the Freeport Public Schools.'

'The Hempstead School District is excited to learn that Congresswoman Rice and Congressman Garbarino are introducing a bill that will provide monies to school districts who may possibly receive an influx of unaccompanied minors,' said Regina Armstrong, Superintendent of Hempstead Schools. 'These students have come to America for better opportunities. This process starts with a sound education that will prepare them for college and career. The funds awarded to school district under the Emergency Relief Act will aid districts in securing the needed human and physical resources necessary to address the needs of the whole child without impacting the taxpayers approved budget.'

The Public School Emergency Relief Act would authorize a program of emergency impact aid payments to states and, through them, to school districts for each quarter of the 2021-2022 school year to respond to any increase in the enrollment of unaccompanied children from the corresponding quarter of the previous school year. Schools would use these funds to provide more services and accommodations for unaccompanied children.

Full text of the legislation.