How the migrant crisis overwhelmed DC public schools

Migrants seeking asylum wait to board a bus at a checkpoint in Eagle Pass, Texas, the United States, on Oct. 10, 2022. Buses carrying migrants from Republican-led border states continue to arrive in liberal bastions like New York, Washington, D.C., a

Emails between D.C. Public Schools officials are offering a glimpse into the strain placed on schools in Washington, D.C., as the sanctuary city struggles to handle an influx of migrants into the nation’s capital.

The emails, obtained by Parents Defending Education via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and shared with Fox News Digital, show a number of challenges facing officials, including finding placements and getting enough bilingual staff.

The emails cover 2022 and 2023, just as the numbers were rising at the border, and as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had started busing migrants to "sanctuary" cities across the country — starting with D.C. 

"As [Language Acquisition Division] continues to support the needs of Migrant Students and the instructional/SEL needs of schools, we are struggling to find available seats/school placements within 45 minutes of the temporary hotel sites," an April 2023 report says.  

"There are pending Enrollment Reserve Requests for the schools that are in process. However, the number of families arriving in DC with children in need of immediate support has increased more rapidly than anticipated by DHS or the Office of Migrant Services, making the need for the additional enrollment reserve more urgent."

That report shows that multiple grades across multiple schools in the district were full and could not hold additional students. Although the report noted that families are reporting "high levels of satisfaction with all of the school placements."

One email from 2022 shows a DCPS staff member from the Office of Elementary Schools warning that one school had received "an influx of ELL [English Language Learner] students who do not speak English, and the teachers need instructional support with strategies to support our scholars."

Another email is about the "increased challenges with school placement for Migrant Students."

This 2022 email shows a "increased challenges with school placement for migrant students." (FOIA/Parents Defending Education)

That email, from Nov. 2022, says that there is an increase of families with multiple children, with 10-12 new students in a single day.

"We are now finding that seat availability in all of the grades needed is very challenging," it says. "While we were trying to keep all siblings in one school, we have had to split up several families as far as school placement (especially for families that have ES and Secondary kiddos)."


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"I reached out to several principals yesterday about placement of students in grades that are at or beyond capacity," the official said.

The email, from the director of Academic Programming for English Learners, describes an urgent need to add classes and staff at one school, including classroom teachers.

"We will be back at the Days Inn [where migrants were being housed] next week and expect a similar number of new students." With the cold temperatures and limited warm weather clothes, having a school option that is closer will be meaningful for the families."

This email shows officials appealing for aid with transport to help migrant children get to school. (FOIA/Parents Defending Education)

Another email from March 2023, said that the district was expecting another 100 students by the end of the year and asked how "to facilitate transportation for this District Emergency" as they look for seat availability and how to "proceed when we exceed class capacity."

A chart obtained via the FOIA shows that there were 155 additional migrants in four schools and another 120 projected. A Jan. 2023 email stated that the enrollment reserve for additional staffing had already been depleted. Another chart from February 2023 showed that four schools had 70, 50, 80, and 25 migrant schools enrolled at each school and no additional capacity.

While cities hit by the number of migrants coming to them blamed the crisis on the buses sent from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott, Parents Defending Education said it was a consequence of a failure to enforce immigration law.

"An obvious consequence of failure to enforce immigration law is that schools will see an influx of high-need students, many of whom speak a different language and have little experience with formal schooling," Erika Sanzi, Director of Outreach for Parents Defending Education, said in a statement. 

"It's an untenable and totally predictable burden that schools are forced to carry — and it is not unique to DC."


More buses of migrants arrive in DC from Texas

Another busload of migrants from Texas arrived in Washington, D.C. late Tuesday night as the state continues its campaign to turn the federal government's attention toward its ongoing border problems, FOX News reports.

D.C. Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital, but a spokesperson told Axios in October that approximately 400 students from migrant families were enrolled in schools.

It is the latest sign of the ongoing strain facing cities where migrants have arrived in large numbers. In New York City, officials are considering ending the sanctuary policies that have been seen as partly responsible for the woes caused by massive migrant arrivals there.

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