Adult illegal immigrants posing as unaccompanied alien children appear to be attempting to enroll at public high schools, city officials in Lynn, Mass., tell National Review Online.
“Some of them have had gray hair and they’re telling you that they’re 17 years old and they have no documentation,” Jamie Cerulli, the Lynn mayor’s chief of staff, tells NRO. “If my children went to the public schools, I’d be very uncomfortable with all of these unaccompanied minors [that] are placed in the ninth grade.”
Admission of all foreign students — illegal immigrants, refugees, and foreign nationals — has increased by more than 500 students since the 2010–2011 school year, Catherine Latham, the city’s superintendent of schools, tells NRO. Last school year, nearly 250 students arrived from Guatemala, including 126 enrolled in the ninth grade.
The majority of unaccompanied Guatemalan children arriving in the city hail from the city of San Marcos, Latham says, and are drawn by Lynn’s large Guatemalan population.
NRO has obtained Department of Health and Human Services documents and images of two unaccompanied aliens living in Lynn that appear to challenge the notion that the age information listened for these “children” on their documents is accurate.
Isai, pictured above (his full name has been withheld), was released from an HHS shelter to a person identified as a “family friend,” living in Lynn, according to his “Verification of Release Form” from HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. According to the information provided on the form, HHS approved Isai’s release less than a month before the date of his 18th birthday.
Candelaria (full name also withheld), pictured above, was released from a shelter in El Paso, Texas, to her sister Amelia who lives in Lynn, according to her Verification of Release Form. Candelaria’s record also claims she was 17 years old at the time of her release.
Isai and Candelaria are enrolled in the ninth grade and are expected to arrive in class this fall, Latham confirmed to NRO. When potential age discrepancies arise, Latham says city officials visit the residences of the “minors” to attempt to verify the age of the individuals in question. On one occasion that she’s aware of, Latham says a relative at one such residence identified an illegal immigrant “child” as between the ages of 30 and 35.
The school system has turned away a handful of people who appeared too old, Latham says, but she’s suspicious of a quite a few other cases.
Upon reviewing the HHS documents, Jessica Vaughan, Center for Immigration Studies’ director of policy studies, tells NRO that the presence of a fingerprint identification number on Candelaria’s record suggests she previously entered and exited the U.S. “To me it calls into question how much screening is actually going on here and I believe these are clearly cases that are different from what we are lead to believe,” Vaughan says. “There’s a lot of red flags here for me.”
Sometimes fraud is remarkably obvious. Latham says any child that plans to attend Lynn Public Schools must make an appointment with the Parent Information Center and provide identification and residency information in order to be accepted and placed into one of the public schools.
In one instance, an unaccompanied alien minor brought a warrant for his arrest to the center and provided it to center officials. The minor could not read the English-language document, and presented it to the officials, Latham says. After receiving the arrest warrant from the center, she notified police, and says the Department of Homeland Security became involved.
DHS told the city not to do anything and said that they would pick up the minor, Latham says. To her knowledge, the minor was never picked up.
Some alien children arrive with others who help them secure a spot at a local school, and don’t make such mistakes. Latham says some children arrive with family members, while other show up with lawyers and “advocates.” Federal policy prohibits city officials from inquiring into any child’s immigration or citizenship status and background, Latham explains (the policies lie in “Dear Colleague” letters sent from federal officials at the Departments of Justice and Education).
Many alien children leave school voluntarily. Latham says. UACs drop out to go work in landscaping when the weather is nice, and return when the cold weather arrives. She says one child in the school system has dropped out four separate times to go to work, creating significant problems for the school system’s enrollment data. “Every time they drop out they are counted against us,” Latham says. “There are issues in data that these students are creating for us that we’re trying to figure out what to do with now.”
The students have overwhelmed the city, and strained available resources. Cerulli says the mayor’s office has asked its departments to scale back their operations in order to direct more resources toward the influx of unaccompanied children.
Classes have already filled up for this fall, Latham says, and she’s actively searching for space to expand the schools’ operation and accommodate the children flooding the system. She says she doesn’t know what the city will do when it runs out of space. “[I’m] not only concerned for this fall, but for next fall,” Latham says. “There are no buildings left.”
— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.