Center for Immigration Studies, August 29, 2014
Video is now available for the Center for Immigration Studies event at the National Press Club, “Local Impact of Illegal Border Surge”. Judith Kennedy, the mayor of Lynn, Mass., discussed the city’s struggle to provide and finance education and other services with large numbers of non-English speaking, low income individuals from Central America settling there. In addition, Jessica Vaughan, CIS Director of Policy Studies, provided a national overview of the impact with particular focus on the evolving threat from transnational gangs with roots in Central America.
The mayor emphasized that she was not in Washington to tell politicians what to do, rather she was here to “explain to federal officials that their actions or inactions will affect places” across the United States that are far from the border. The city of Lynn provides a compelling case study of the impact of the recent border surge of “unaccompanied alien children.” In the 2010-2011 school year, Lynn had 2 new school admissions from Guatemala; in the school year 2013-201, 101 new admission from Guatemala were placed in 9th grade. Many of these students are illiterate in both English and Spanish and have not been schooled beyond the third grade.
“We are struggling with the number of students we have been receiving,” stated the mayor, who is reaching out to the federal government to help with the expense placed on local communities. The hiring of teachers and aides, and the provision of more classroom space, materials, and vaccinations, have taken a toll. In order to provide the necessary 9.3% budget increase in education, the city has had to cut all other city departments from 2-5%. These cuts could have long term impacts. For example, a community policing program, credited with significantly reducing gang activity, has had to be cut to find funds for the schools.
Vaughan provided a national perspective on the costs of the surge in unaccompanied minors, stating, “national education costs for 2014 will total around $1 billion, and this does not count the even larger number of children arriving in family units.”
Vaughan feared the resurgence of violent criminal street gang activity resulting from the border surge: “All of this leads me to have grave concerns about the potential for a rise in violence and crime in those areas absorbing surge migrants. MS-13 and others go where they can blend in. One of the unintended consequences of a previous wave of illegal immigration from Central America, in the ’80s and ’90s was the emergence of a new breed of extremely vicious and unusually degenerate street gangs.”