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Editorial: Uncle Sam should help LI with immigrant kids

Long Island immigrants and their allies chant during

Long Island immigrants and their allies chant during a press conference in anticipation of the historic U.S. Senate vote on comprehensive immigration reform at the offices of Make the Road New York in Brentwood. (June 27, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

The arrival on Long Island of more than 2,200 hundred unaccompanied minors is not an emergency, nor should it be an excuse for hysteria or hatred. But for the school districts absorbing the most students, it is an economic burden, and it isn't one the taxpayers of these districts should have to shoulder alone.

The children, part of a sudden wave this year of unaccompanied children streaming over the border, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, are here because of a federal anti-trafficking law that says minors who come into the United States and are not from Mexico or Canada cannot be deported without an immigration hearing. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that all children in this country are entitled to an education regardless of immigration status.

These children are generally sent to live with relatives until their hearings. Long Island, with its sizable Hispanic immigrant population, has taken in 2,200 of the 37,000 minors resettled nationally in the first seven months of this year. They are enrolled in the local districts.

That's expensive, and most of the cost lands on the low-tax-base districts where so many immigrants live. Central Islip, for instance, has reported about 130 unaccompanied minors enrolled, while Glen Cove got 30 and Freeport 25 . Brentwood and Hempstead have not said how many they've enrolled, but the numbers are likely high.

Teaching those who speak no English and may not read or write their native languages is costly. Districts, limited by a property tax cap, can't come up with the money. These children do deserve to go to school. The federal government, having mandated that they have a right to stay in the country for a time and a right to an education while they're here, has the responsibility to help pay the tab.