Maryland schools see influx of immigrants from Central America

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, August 25, 2014

While Maryland schools are well equipped to take in immigrants, the thousands of unaccompanied minors streaming across the border from Central America bring a new set of issues. They are most likely teenagers who not only don't speak English but also have significant deficits in their education. School officials said they have seen nearly illiterate high-schoolers, girls who have been sexually assaulted during their journey across the border, and others who are overwhelmed and depressed.

"Many are coming with psychological or emotional trauma. Many are not literate in Spanish ... and may only have gone to school up to the first or second grade. They may have huge gaps," said Kelly Reider, coordinator for English language acquisition and international student services in Anne Arundel County.

In response, Baltimore-area schools are hiring more teachers who specialize in working with teaching foreign students, finding nonprofit partners to assist students when school resources are inadequate, and providing health clinics and group counseling sessions.

Maryland has taken in 2,804 unaccompanied immigrant children from January to July 30, the most per capita of any state, as their cases make their way through a backlogged immigration court, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More children are expected to arrive throughout the year, with estimates from the state rising as high as 2,000 to 3,000.

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