New York City’s rise in migrant students spurs calls for more services, outreach

Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As a new school year begins in New York City, advocates are calling on the city to boost its services for the thousands of migrant children enrolling in classes.

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks told reporters last week that over 19,000 school-aged children who have arrived as asylum seekers will attend school this year.

Roughly 2,500 new students who are living in temporary housing enrolled in July for the 2023-2024 school year, which begins on Thursday, the chancellor said Wednesday.

“They’re still coming every day,” Banks said.

The chancellor said that the city’s school system has the space to handle the new influx of students since tens of thousands of families have disenrolled their kids from public schools since the pandemic.

However, non-profit groups that specialize in helping immigrants get a good education, said the migrant children who are currently in temporary housing are going to need more than classroom space.

Liza Schwartzwald, the director of economic justice and family empowerment for the non-profit New York Immigrant Coalition, told reporters Tuesday that there is a shortage of bilingual teachers in schools.

The city’s Department of Education said there are 3,400 English as a second language teachers and 1,700 certified bilingual teachers fluent in Spanish.

Diana Aragundi, the assistant project director, of the Advocates for the Children of New York’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, said that she has heard from schools, parents and students that the migrant children are placed in the same classroom as other students.

“It’s really about providing them the support to learn English,” she said.

Schwartzwald also noted that because many of the migrant families are being placed in select shelters throughout the city, some schools will have more migrant students than others.

“Most of the students are being placed in schools that are geographically close to them. For those parents that are able to travel a little bit or willing to go further, then those families can absolutely get enrolled in schools that have stronger immigrant supports,” she explained.

The city said it has been sending education specialists to shelters to provide information and resources about New York’s public education services.

Schwartzwald said that the growing number of new migrants has made it hard for families to get in touch with these specialists, and many families aren’t learning about the educational opportunities and other programs, such as free meals.

She said the DOE should do what it can to increase this outreach to shelters and other locations that are housing migrants. Schwartzwald added that the city’s non-profits will also be spreading the word about education services.

“We’re trying to make sure we know where people can get their resources,” she said.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom told reporters Wednesday that some of the migrant children may not be in “the exact right place,” on the first days of school, but said they will be helped.

“We are going to figure it out. I promise you that. And if there are a couple of first days of children not getting to the exact right place, we will figure it out and they will be in a good place,” she said.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said over 110,000 migrants have been transported to the city since the spring of 2022. As of Wednesday, there are 60,000 asylum seekers are seeking shelter, according to the mayor’s office.

Adams has called on the federal government to provide the city with more resources and support to handle these additional migrants and has also called on Washington D.C. to expedite work permits to get these individuals jobs. 

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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