Juarez schools to take in hundreds of migrant children

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Chihuahua state officials prepare impact study, say money won't be a problem

Migrant children pose in front of a Honduran national flag as they wait to cross into Mexico on the border from Guatemala, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas State, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. Hundreds of Central American migrants are walking and hitchhiking through the region as part of a new caravan of migrants hoping to reach the United States. Schools in Juarez are ready to take in hundreds of children like these this fall. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Juarez officials are making plans to accommodate hundreds of migrant children in their schools beginning this fall.

The officials say that at least 1,600 children from Central America and other countries have been returned to Juarez through the Migrant Protection Protocol program this year to await the results of asylum petitions. The waits can last up to a year, so children risk missing substantial school time.

“We estimate that (30 percent) of those children have the need and their parents have the willingness to attend classes” in local schools for the duration of their stay in Mexico, said Mario Dena, the ranking Chihuahua state official in Juarez.

Dena said Juarez public schools can absorb up to 3,000 additional students this fall, but he estimates that only between 400 and 500 migrant children will register for classes. That’s because some of the returned families may have decided to go back to their countries, are waiting out their asylum process elsewhere in Mexico or may not want to participate.

“First we need to take stock of how many (school-aged) children remain in the city, what grade they would be going into and how many parents would allow them to attend school here. Then we would allocate resources. … We don’t think it’ll be that much, but whatever investment we need to make, we will make it,” Dena said.

One of the potential challenges is that migrants in Juarez are staying only in neighborhoods where shelters are located or in shared apartments and hotel rooms near Downtown.

Migrant families who trekked to the U.S. border to seek political asylum often brought their children.

Dena said he believes schools in those neighborhoods have enough room and teachers to provide for children from Central America and other countries. “We have identified the institutions and we don’t think there will be a need to add teachers, but if it’s necessary to hire more, we will make such investment,” he said.

Juarez officials don’t have a detailed breakdown of the migrant minors that remain in their city. Earlier, staff at the Migrant Assistance Center on the Mexican side of the Paso del Norte Bridge told Border Report that teenagers comprise the highest number of migrant minors, but that they’ve also seen large numbers of elementary school-aged children, babies and toddlers.

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