US cuts English in shelters

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Immigrants arriving at a US detention centre.

The Trump administration is cancelling English language classes, recreational activities and legal aid for unaccompanied migrant children staying in federally-contracted shelters.

Children found illegally entering the US are in the federal government’s care until they’re reunited with parents or a sponsor is found. Migrant advocacy groups say the cuts to their English courses are illegal. Garza said that without access to activities such as football, English language and other classes, children escaping violence will be “sitting in prisonlike conditions.”

A lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Texas, Rochelle Garza, told National Public Radio that federal contracts for migrant shelters are conditional on legal compliance to “educational and recreational provisions.”

An estimated 13,200 minors, mostly from El Salvador and Honduras, are in shelters under federal contract. As of June, an unprecedented 52,000 immigrants (of all ages) were in detention in 200 centres across the US. Some 11,000 minors were apprehended at the border in May – double the figure for December 2018.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), responsible for unaccompanied minors arriving at the US-Mexico border, emailed shelters in May and ordered them to cut back on activities, “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.” The ORR cited an influx of migrants straining an already depleted budget, a situation Customs and Border Patrol commissioner John Sanders described as “a fullblown emergency.”

Image courtesy of HECTOR SILVA