Byrne: ‘Illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities’
Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Wednesday spoke during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing centered on immigration.
While Democrats called the hearing, “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children,” Byrne argued that not enforcing immigration laws actually harms children born to legal American residents and citizens.
“It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this,” Byrne said.
After asking Democrat witnesses about the costs of illegal immigration to our nation’s schools — and apparently stumping them, Byrne criticized Democrats who attacked President Donald Trump for enforcing immigration laws while they themselves did not even ask about the cost of failing to enforce those laws.
The coastal Alabama congressman’s line of questioning highlighted that these costs are borne by states and local school systems and ultimately come at the detriment of students.
Byrne’s full remarks during the hearing as follows:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In 2016, the Pew Research Center estimated that 3.9 million – or 7.3% – of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the United States were either here illegally or were the children of at least one parent illegally present in the United States.
Can anyone tell me how much we spend on public education for that population of students? It’s around $60 billion.
A significant and increasing percentage of these costs represent remedial English education, required by the federal government for students designated as Limited English Proficiency or LEP. In 2016, it was estimated that 9.6% of all students and 17% of kindergarten students were now designated as LEP. Educating those students is expensive. By some estimations, we are spending $59 billion just on ESL and other programs to help children with English language deficiency.
Can anyone tell me what percentage of teachers in the United States are certified or trained in ESL? It’s about one percent.
How about what percentage of ESL Programs are paid for by the federal government that requires them? Just over 1 percent.
Who pays for the rest? States and local school systems!
So, we require it and we push 99% of the costs on state and local school systems. That costs a lot of money for these state and local school systems. Many of them like my state of Alabama just don’t have it. But because the federal government requires it, they have to put that money in there to the detriment of other programs.
At least 13 states spend over $1 billion per year on limited English proficiency programs in public schools.
Earlier this year, this committee found that there is a $46 billion public school infrastructure shortfall. Accounting for inflation, teacher salaries are down 1.6% since 2000. Classroom sizes are growing. Resources for students are shrinking.
It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this.
The federal government has mandated that we provide public education to the children of illegal immigrants, but we don’t pay for it! States and local school districts do!
How is that fair? How is that right that we make the requirement here at the federal government and we put up one percent of the cost?
I’m a former state school board member in Alabama. I have sat across from teachers and superintendents and talked to them about this issue. Dollars that our schools have, they are not unlimited. The states don’t print money like we do here in Washington. They have requirements that they balance their budgets. Coming up with the money to fund these K-12 education programs around the country is extremely difficult.
So, I think if we are going to sit here and criticize the president for enforcing the law, we need to also think about the cost of not enforcing the law.
That cost is not being borne by those of us in Washington. It’s being borne by men and women and the states and local school systems around the United States of America. But really the cost is being borne by children who are being denied the programs that they should have. Children who are citizens of the United States, whose parents are citizens of the United States, they’re being denied programs because we’re forcing their state and local school systems to take on an expense that we should be taking on because we’ve failed to enforce our own laws.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn