'It's all behind us now.' 1,700 migrant children see hope in nation's largest school system | CNN (2023)


After the hardship of their journey from South America to the United States, Marialena Coromoto and her 13-year-old daughter, Neimarys, see hope in the US school system.

Days before her first day of class, Neimarys described finally feeling at peace following months of uncertainty. The young migrant from Venezuela, sitting on a park bench near the Queens, New York, hotel where she is staying with her mother, proudly showed off some of her English language basics – “Hello. How are you?” – and a colorful backpack with notebooks, pencils and a ruler that had been donated to her.

At least 140 asylum seekers arrived in New York Sunday on buses in what the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs is calling the largest single-day arrival of migrants from Texas, according to a spokesperson. NYC Immigrant Affairs 'The future is here.' Migrants step off buses from Texas into New York homeless shelters

“It’s all behind us now,” Neimarys said in Spanish, speaking of their long journey to the border with Mexico. “It was no American dream but a nightmare.”

When New York City public schools reopened on September 8, Neimarys was among the over 1,700 school aged children that arrived with asylum-seeking families since April, according to a city official briefed on the response.

“I’m excited because I’m in a country that will help me become the professional I want to be,” said Neimarys, who is undecided about a career but hopes one day to return to Venezuela and buy a home.

Neimarys and her 31-year-old mother are part of a wave of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers who have arrived in New York in recent months. Most fled economic insecurity and political upheaval in Central and South America.

Now public schools are scrambling for staff to support the newcomers and preparing for students who have suffered trauma.

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“We want every child to have a chance to be able to thrive and grow and prosper no matter their ZIP code, no matter their ethnicity, no matter how they got here,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said at a Bronx elementary school on the first day of classes.

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The Democratic mayor has clashed with Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for busing hundreds of migrants to New York City. Texas has also bused recently arrived migrants awaiting immigration court proceedings to Washington, DC, and Chicago.

Some undocumented migrants and asylum seekers arrived on buses chartered by Texas to highlight what Abbott said is the Biden administration’s failure to secure the border.

The migrants on Martha's Vineyard have boarded three buses provided by state and local government and are on toward their final destination at Joint Base Cape Cod to be provide continued shelter and humanitarian support. CNN The migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard have been voluntarily taken to a military base for support, officials say

Others – like Neimarys and her mom – came to New York on flights from San Antonio and other cities near the southern border. In some cases nonprofits or relatives cover their airfare. New York is using more than a dozen hotels as emergency shelters, city officials said.

More than 1,700 of the newcomers are school age children, according to city officials. Most face language barriers, homelessness, financial stress and emotional trauma.

“I had to stay strong,” Neimarys said of the passage north through remote jungle and rugged mountains. “My mom would cry and I would encourage her to keep moving. I knew we couldn’t give up and stay where we were.”

Schools try to meet students’ multiple needs

Pan American International High School sits in one of six city school districts taking in most of the school-aged children from the summer migrant surge.

The campus, with an enrollment of about 350 last school year, is in Elmhurst, Queens, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York. Pan American bills itself as a “diverse learning community of recently immigrated Latinx scholars,” according to its bilingual website.

Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, speaks during a news conference in Dallas, Texas, US, on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. A massive rainstorm in North Texas drenched parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area with more than a foot of water, swamping roadways, triggering flash flood warnings and killing at least one person in what experts call a once-in-200-years event. Photographer: Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg via Getty Images Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg/Getty Images Texas spends more than $12 million to bus migrants to Washington, DC, and New York

At least 75 new students have enrolled this year and nearly all are the children of recently arrived asylum seekers, principal Waleska Velez said.

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“We’re prepared to support those students not only academically but also with social and emotional support,” said Velez.

Already facing massive budget cuts, declining enrollments and teacher shortages, school administrations are now looking to recruit certified bilingual teachers and other support staff to deal with the influx of Spanish-speaking children from migrant families.

“Think about the fact that we cut a couple of hundred million dollars from our budget in education and now we have children coming in with specialized needs,” said New York Assemb. Catalina Cruz, an immigrant from Colombia and a former undocumented student.

“These are children who have severe trauma, families that have severe needs and we have to invest in them and the rest of our city to make sure that our children and teachers and community are positioned to welcomed them.”

‘They are not in this alone’

Last month, the Adams administration launched Project Open Arms to reach migrant families at shelters and help them enroll their children in schools. The project also offers language support, legal services, transportation and school supplies.

“We are showing these families that they are not in this alone and we’re making sure that our schools are ready to do the same,” Department of Education Chancellor David Banks said. “I can’t even begin to imagine the level of challenge and trauma that so many of these families have gone through.”

Adams last week called the surge of asylum seekers coming to New York City from the southern border “unprecedented.”

A man walks past St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, on Saturday, September 17. Erica Lee/CNN 'They enriched us.' Migrants' 44-hour visit leaves indelible mark on Martha's Vineyard

“Since May, this administration, on its own, has safely and efficiently provided shelter, health care, education, and a host of other services to more than 11,000 people predominantly from Central and South America who are seeking a better life,” Adams said in a news release.

The city saw a large influx over the weekend with a record nine buses arriving in just one day, Adams said Tuesday at a press conference. He said the city now has received about 13,000 migrants, with 9,500 in the shelter system.

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To accommodate those many families with children, the Department of Education has expedited appeals for support from city schools.

“We definitely have some concerns about how well and what kind of systems we can have in place to provide truly comprehensive supports for the students,” said Alan Cheng, a Department of Education district superintendent for nearly 50 high schools.

“The challenge will be how do we ensure continuity of these services. How do we make sure these people are not forgotten after the first week or the first month?”

The American flag and National League of Families POW/MIA Flag on top of the White House stand at half staff to honor the U.S. service members killed in terror attacks in Kabul Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images White House eliminates potential hurdles for immigrants on public benefits trying to obtain legal status

In terms of handling the increased number of students, “we certainly have the seats in our classrooms, teachers that are ready to go” and the resources to serve the needs of the migrants, Cheng said. “We’ve really been pretty deliberate about ensuring that every single one of our schools is fully staffed and ready to go and also being fairly flexible.

“I hope our city and folks that are here understand that we’re here to work with young people from all four years to whether that’s a month or even one week,” Cheng said. “That we recognize just how valuable and special and beneficial being able to be in a place like this can be.”

Neimarys and her mother, originally from the northwestern Venezuelan state of Falcón, had been living in Ecuador for the last five years. On May 14, they embarked on their journey north with a group of friends and family. On June 17, Neimarys and her mom crossed the Rio Grande into the United States.

“I want her to learn a lot and to open up her mind,” Marialena Coromoto said of her daughter’s enrollment in a city public school. “I want her to put behind all that we have we endured.”

Neimarys, carrying around her backpack filled with school supplies days before the start of classes, is ready for her next journey.

“I don’t speak English and that will make things difficult,” she said of the coming school year, “but I’m confident I can handle it.”

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CNN’s Laura Ly contributed to this report.


How did American schools help assimilate immigrant children? ›

During this period the Federal government mandated the establishment of special schools for American Indians. The schools were designed to assimilate American-Indian children into white American culture by stripping them of much of their heritage.

Why do immigrants come to the United States for education? ›

The United States long has been a destination of choice for higher-educated immigrants and those looking to receive a college education, thanks to its robust and dynamic economy, world-acclaimed universities and research facilities, and opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.

What are some struggles that children who migrate to the USA face in the classroom? ›

Environmental changes can be hard on kids

Kids go through huge life changes including being removed from their childhood home, their old culture, their friends and family. Undocumented students face major stress from fear of family member deportation or from financial struggles.

Why do immigrant children struggle in school? ›

The main language that is used in the United States education system is English. Given that Spanish is the most commonly spoken language among immigrants aged five and older, many immigrant students struggle in excelling in their education because they face a language barrier, according to Pew Research Center.

How does immigration affect education? ›

There are at least two ways in which immigration could affect schooling outcomes for natives. Immigrant children could compete for schooling resources with native children, lowering the return to native education and discouraging native high school completion.

Which country is the most educated immigrants in US? ›

According to Rice University research, Nigerian Americans are the most educated group in the United States.

Do children of immigrants do better in school? ›

The Immigrant Paradox

One theme in this large body of secondary school research is that immigrant youth are often academically successful compared with children with U.S.-born parents. In New York, for example, children of immigrants generally outperform their peers with native-born parents on achievement tests.

Is education free in USA for immigrants? ›

All children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents' actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status.

What causes child migration? ›

Children may leave their homes and communities for environmental reasons, whether sudden natural disasters such as floods or cyclones, or slow onset environmental change such as drought. Poverty may also be a cause for children to migrate. Some children are trafficked for labour or sexual exploitation.

How migration affects children's education? ›

Children left behind at their source village experience significant emotional and behavioural difficulties due to the absence of the parent(s). These, in turn, affect children's education, psycho-social development and cognitive abilities.

What are the effects of migration on children? ›

Children may migrate with or without their families, and their movements may be temporary, seasonal or permanent. While migration can open up new opportunities for children, it can also expose them to harmful care situations, chronic poverty, violence and exploitation.

How does immigration affect youth? ›

Migration often involves the separation of families and changed roles within families. It can be a traumatic experience that affects children and youth's sense of well-being and can be compounded further by instances of racism and bullying that youth may experience.

What were 2 major challenges faced by immigrants when they arrived in America? ›

Difficulty speaking English, trouble taking off work, and limited transportation (we'll get to that) are all very real issues. Accessing mental health issues is especially problematic. Many times, refugees and immigrants have been exposed to violence, rape, even torture- but they may not know how to seek help.

How does migration impact society? ›

Migration helps in improving the quality of life of people. It helps to improve social life of people as they learn about new culture, customs, and languages which helps to improve brotherhood among people. Migration of skilled workers leads to a greater economic growth of the region.

Do immigrant children have rights to education in the US? ›

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plyler vs. Doe (457 U.S. 202 (1982)) that undocumented children and young adults have the same right to attend public primary and secondary schools as do U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Can a non immigrant child attend school in the US? ›

All children in the United States are entitled to a basic public elementary and secondary education regardless of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, or the status of their parents/guardians.

How can I help US immigrant students in school? ›

Key Strategies
  1. Help families keep their emergency contact information updated. ...
  2. Ensure all staff understand immigrant students' rights. ...
  3. Let all students and families know that they are welcome. ...
  4. Create different channels for communication in families' languages.

Do immigrants come to the US for education? ›

Immigrants often come to the United States to seek education, especially higher education. Native-born populations are more likely than immigrants to be out of school, and immigrant populations are more likely to be in school (especially public school systems).

Where do highly educated immigrants come from? ›

At 3.12 million, India has been found to be the source country for the highest number of highly educated immigrants.
Countries that highly educated migrants are coming from [as of 2015/16]
CountryHighly educated migrants from the country
China2.25 m
Philippines1.89 m
UK1.75 m
Germany1.47 m
4 more rows
9 Dec 2020

What grade do students learn about immigration? ›

Students usually begin study of US history by 4th grade. By learning about immigration in advance of this, students are more likely to approach US history with an eye out for all people's experiences, beginning with the experience of those native to the US.

Which country is best for immigrants? ›

Top 10 countries for those interested in Immigration
  • Canada: The area of ​​Canada is about two-fifths of the North American continent, making it the second largest country in the world after Russia. ...
  • Japan: ...
  • Germany: ...
  • Switzerland: ...
  • Australia: ...
  • America. ...
  • New Zealand: ...
  • United Kingdom:

Which country has the most immigrant students? ›

The United States is home to the highest number of immigrants in the world. An estimated 50.6 million people in the United States—a bit more than 15% of the total population of 331.4 million—were born in a foreign country. The number of immigrants in the U.S. has increased by at least 400% since 1965.

Which country has the most educated citizens? ›

Canada topped the list of the most educated countries, followed by Russia, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Israel, United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Australia. Despite focusing on education and increasing spending on the education system, India struggles to make its place on the list.

What is it called when your parents are immigrants? ›

First-generation immigrants are those whose parents were born outside the United States, and second-generation immigrants are those whose parents were born in the Unites States or its territories. Non-immigrant children are all children, regardless of where they were born, who have two U.S.-born parents.

How many children have immigrant parents in the US? ›

CHILDREN IN THE U.S.— APPROXIMATELY 18 MILLION—ARE CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS. Immigrants are a part of our families, workplaces, and houses of worship.

How many immigrant children are in US schools? ›

researchers estimate 321,000 undocumented and asylum-seeking children enrolled in the nation's public schools between late 2016 and 2019, just ahead of the more recent and dramatic uptick in newcomers from Central America, Mexico, Afghanistan and Haiti.

What states allow undocumented students to go to college? ›

The states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Can I bring my niece to study in USA? ›

The nieces and nephews are not permitted to stay with you and study unless they are considered adopted children. If your nephew is less than 16 years old, you may want to look into the possibility of judicially adopting him and then file for his immigrant petition as your adopted child and sponsor his studies.

Do green card holders get free education? ›

You are eligible to receive federal benefits such as social security or education assistance. Permanent residents may apply for government-sponsored financial aid for education. Additionally, green card holders are entitled to in-state or resident tuition rates at certain colleges and universities.

What is the number 1 reason for migration? ›

Pull factors include higher wages, better employment opportunities, a higher standard of living and educational opportunities. If economic conditions are not favourable and appear to be at risk of declining further, a greater number of individuals will probably migrate to countries with a better outlook.

What are 3 causes of human migration? ›

People may choose to immigrate for a variety of reasons, such as employment opportunities, to escape a violent conflict, environmental factors, educational purposes, or to reunite with family.

Where do most child refugees come from? ›

In 2021, just three countries – Syria, South Sudan and Afghanistan – accounted for about half of all child refugees in the world; three-quarters of all child refugees come from only eight countries.

What is the relationship between education and migration? ›

Migration and education are decisions that are indeed intertwined in many dimensions. Education and skill acquisition play an important role at many stages of an individual's migration. Differential returns to skills in origin- and destination country are a main driver of migration.

What are 3 positive effects of migration? ›

The expansion of the labour force, the increase of cultural variety, the filling of skill gaps in the labour market, and the boost to the local economy are the major positive effects of migration on host countries.

What type of education system can be arranged for migrant children? ›

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 provides for free and compulsory elementary education of equitable quality to all children, including the children of migrant workers, of 6-14 years age.

What problems do children of immigrants face? ›

Immigrant families are less likely to have cultural knowledge of school assignment and school choice. These systems can be hard to understand for people born into them, much less a family new to the country. Neighborhood segregation often pushes immigrant families toward lower-quality, segregated schools.

What are the positives and negatives of migration? ›

Migration has advantages and disadvantages. Some of advantages include: getting better places, interacting with people and learning their way of live. Disadvantages include: being killed, livestock stolen or conflicts.

What are the positive effects of migration? ›

The opportunity to get a better job. Improved quality of life. Safety from conflict. The opportunity for a better education.

Can I stay in the US if my child is born here? ›

Having a child in the United States won't give a mother the right to remain in the U.S. permanently. She will still need to complete an application for a Green Card or other visa.

Can I fix my parents papers if they entered illegally 2022? ›

Under this narrow exception, parents who entered the US illegally may qualify for adjustment of status from within the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 245(i) as long as they pay a $1,000 penalty.

Can Ice detain US citizens? ›

DOES ICE HAVE THE RIGHT TO DETAIN OR ARREST U.S. CITIZENS BASED ON IMMIGRATION STATUS? NO. The immigration law and its rules do not apply to U.S. citizens. ICE agents have deportation authority over non-citizens only.

What was life like for immigrants in the United States? ›

Often stereotyped and discriminated against, many immigrants suffered verbal and physical abuse because they were "different." While large-scale immigration created many social tensions, it also produced a new vitality in the cities and states in which the immigrants settled.

What difficulties do first generation immigrants face when they settle in a new country? ›

The Top 10 Problems Faced by Immigrants
  • Language barriers.
  • Employment opportunities.
  • Housing.
  • Access to local services.
  • Transportation issues.
  • Cultural differences.
  • Raising children.
  • Prejudice.
18 Jun 2021

Which group of immigrants do you think faced the greatest challenges in the United States why? ›

I think that the group of people that faced the worst times and the greatest challenges were the Chinese immigrants. These immigrants came to the United States to work for a better life. They worked mainly on the railroads and constructing new railroad tracks.

Where do most of the immigrants in the United States come from? ›

Origins of the U.S. immigrant population, 1960–2016
South and East Asia4%28%
Other Latin America4%25%

Is migration good for society? ›

Migrants also make significant economic contributions to their countries and communities of origin through numerous channels. The most widely recognized is remittances, that is, transfers of money, which are often used to meet the basic needs of families and communities.

How did public schools help assimilate new immigrants? ›

How did public schools help with assimilation of new immigrants? Teachers taught their students about cultural values, such as patriotism, thrift, and hard work.

How did residential schools assimilate children? ›

The assimilation process started as soon as the children arrived in school: their hair was cut short, they were stripped of their traditional clothes and given uniforms to wear, and were also given new names or a number as a form of identification.

How did US school contribute to the Americanization movement to assimilate immigrants? ›

How did U.S. schools contribute to the Americanization movement to assimilate immigrants? Schools promoted the use and study of diverse languages. Schools operated as centers for a process of cultural learning. Schools allowed for various culture groups to live more closely.

How did residential schools try to assimilate the natives? ›

When they arrived at residential school, Indigenous children were often segregated – first by religious denomination, then by gender and by age. Because of this, siblings were often separated from one another. Having been removed from their homes and families, they found institutional life extremely lonely.

How do public schools try to Americanize immigrant students? ›

In order to assimilate immigrant students through English-language schooling, state governments passed the law to restrict foreign language education and introduced English as the required language for public school instructions.

How can we help immigrants in the classroom? ›

Key Strategies
  1. Help families keep their emergency contact information updated. ...
  2. Ensure all staff understand immigrant students' rights. ...
  3. Let all students and families know that they are welcome. ...
  4. Create different channels for communication in families' languages.

Why did many children in the 1900s not attend school? ›

In 1904, kids were supposed to go to school until they were 16, but most of them did not finish 8th grade because their family needed help on the farm, factories, etc. A few women went to college, even few rich girls went to college.

Why did parents send their kids to residential schools? ›

Parents often were compelled to send their children to residential school because federal policy decisions had robbed them of alternatives.

Why did the government send kids to residential schools? ›

Two primary objectives of the residential schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their home, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate into the dominant culture.

Why did they put kids in residential schools? ›

Residential schools were created by Christian churches and the Canadian government as an attempt to both educate and convert Indigenous youth and to assimilate them into Canadian society. However, the schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples.

How were immigrant children taught about American society? ›

Educating the Children of Immigrants. No special arrangements were made for immigrant pupils through most of the nineteenth century, apart from being in a public school classroom, with what was then a strong emphasis upon basic skills and upon patriotism and civic morality.

Why did some immigrants oppose sending their children to public schools? ›

Some immigrants did not wish to send their children to public schools because they feared that these schools would stop teaching their native cultures and languages. In what ways was racial discrimination reinforced by the federal government's actions and policies?

What is the main way that immigrants become assimilated into American society? ›

Americanization is the process of an immigrant to the United States becoming a person who shares American culture, values, beliefs, and customs by assimilating into the American nation. This process typically involves learning the American English language and adjusting to American culture, values, and customs.

Who put natives in residential schools? ›

The first boarding schools for Indigenous children in what would become Canada were established by Roman Catholic missionaries in 17th century colonial New France.

Did all natives have to go to residential schools? ›

In 1920, under the Indian Act, it became mandatory for every Indigenous child to attend a residential school and illegal for them to attend any other educational institution.

Did non natives go to residential schools? ›

First, only a small minority of Aboriginal children attended residential schools. Second, non-Aboriginal children also attended residential schools in significant numbers. Third, Aboriginal children were not systematically punished for speaking their native languages.


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