GCE-US Affirms the Right to Education for Unaccompanied Minors on the US Border

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GCE-US Affirms the Right to Education for Unaccompanied Minors on the US Border

June 12, 2019| | News | GCE-US


Contacts: Ronnate Asirwatham, Senior Policy Advisor, ronnate@gce-us.org

Katie Loos, Research and Communications Fellow, kloos@gce-us.org

Washington, D.C. (June 12th, 2019)

The Global Campaign for Education-US and over 100 organizations are utterly dismayed by the unwarranted announcement from the Trump administration to cut funding to the Office of Refugee Resettlement toward education, recreational programs, and legal services. The decision to refuse access to these vital provisions will detrimentally impact the lives of approximately 13,200 minors currently being held in federally contracted centers.

Many of these children and youth have fled regions experiencing devastating conflict and lack the comfort of their guardian or sponsor. Therefore, schooling and outdoor play provide an essential solace in an unstable environment. School classes provide normalcy, instill resilience, and empower youth to make impactful contributions to our society. Furthermore, outdoor play supports healthy functioning in many forms, including creating opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, improving sleep, and promoting physical wellness (NAEYC).

For these reasons, we affirm that education is an irrefutable basic human right. As such, we are proud to recognize this right in established United States law:

  1. Public schooling is legally granted to all children, regardless of their documentation status by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler vs. Doe (457 U.S. 202, 1982).
  2. The right to education is protected by the 1997 settlement agreement in Reno v. Flores (507 U.S. 292, 1993), which requires that unaccompanied minors in custody of Immigration Services receive “educational services appropriate to the minor's level of development, and communication skills in a structured classroom setting,” including the provision of daily recreational activity and readily available legal assistance.

Given this legal standing, we do not condone nor accept the refusal of funding to such critical programs. It is clear that the humanitarian resources exist, yet have been redirected toward abhorrent and inhumane immigration detention policies.

Currently, the supplemental funding request for $4.5 billion to the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), Defense (DOD), and Health and Human Services (HHS) would be mostly directed toward expanding detention infrastructure, surveillance measures, and the Credible Fear Screening Program. These initiatives dehumanize migrants and devastate communities while drawing on funds for invaluable social services.

We urge the administration to direct funds to the care of children to fulfill their right to education and legal counsel in compliance with legal precedent  and to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to release children as soon as possible to family members and sponsors. It is illegal to hold children in prison-like facilities without outdoor access, schooling, or legal assistance to seek asylum. All children have the right to a quality education, regardless of their citizenship status.

Click here to tweet this statement and spread the word.

Read this letter signed by over 100 organizations urging the Office of Refugee Resettlement to maintain supportive services  for children.

For more information on current actions against child detention:

    Teachers Against Child Detention

    National Immigrant Justice Center

    Save the Children: Take action to oppose long-term detention