• Home
  • News
  • US: Cuts to education for children in federal custody at the border

US: Cuts to education for children in federal custody at the border

An official from the Health and Human Services Department of the US Administration sent an email to shelters notifying them of cancelled English classes, recreational programs and legal aid for children while in federal custody at the border after 22 May.

Education International calls upon the administration of President Trump to re-examine the cuts in funding of education for children detained at the border. This action jeopardizes the fundamental right to education and damages children’s mental and physical health. Children need access to education and recreation in order to mature. By cutting access to education, this administration, once again, demonstrates a disregard for humanitarian principles when it comes to children fleeing harsh conditions.

US Teacher Unions voice their alarm

NEA President, Lily Eskelsen García, declared, “How we treat children speaks volumes about the character of this nation. We are still a nation of values, based on the ideal that we are all created and treated equal. This blatant action is inhumane and cruel and a clear violation of that principle.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten stated, “This is a cruel, craven and illegal move. Kids who have been separated from their parents, caged and dehumanized, did not cause their circumstances—yet this administration insists on treating them with blatant and inhuman disregard.”

Education International denounces the cutting of services to children

It is bad enough that children are forcibly separated from their parents and being held in federal custody, in some cases, for several months. But, violating their fundamental right to education is yet another step in the degradation of an already vulnerable population. As the global voice for employees in the education sector dedicated to the wellbeing of children, Education International denounces the horrendous conditions enacted by the Trump administration.

“A quality education for all is a top priority at Education International and should be priority for all to ensure the wellbeing of children. It’s traumatic for these children to be detained at the border in the first place, and by denying them their right to education and recreation, these children are enduring jail-like conditions that will haunt them for a lifetime,” EI general Secretary David Edwards stated.

One shelter employee remarked that organized recreation and physical activity are crucial to maintaining both physical and mental health by providing children with an alternative to monotony. The employee suggested that, without these programs, kids would have little to do and end up sitting in their rooms all day.

These unaccompanied minors are traveling to the U.S. to flee difficult situations such as gang violence and extreme poverty. As these children are detained, the services they receive in the shelters provide a distraction as they wait for the decision on where they will be placed. Cutting these programs will affect an average of 12,500 minors nationwide; the number of minors in federal custody according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

A violation of international human rights treaties

This new act by the US Administration is counter to the letter and principles of internationally recognized human rights as enshrined in treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also not in line with the UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders. David Edwards stressed that universal human rights standards do not exclude children, nor people without papers nor those seeking asylum from the fundamental human rights and human dignity to which all human beings are entitled.”

This act follows the “zero tolerance” immigration policy that forcibly separates immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, citing “illegal entry” into the country as the justification. EI has lodged a formal complaintto the Human Rights Council seeking U.S. government reversal of this policy.

As the Texas State Teachers Association insisted in a press release last year, “In a landmark decision, Plyler v. Doe, which originated in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that states cannot deny students a free public education on account of their immigration status. That ruling is still the law of the land.”

Photo Credit: Takver