President Barack Obama is dumping hundreds of Guatemalan migrants into the blue-collar town of Lynn, Mass., boosting its education costs, forcing cuts in government services, and helping raise rental prices for Americans, according to the city’s mayor.
Many “are illiterate in both English and Spanish [and] the odds of us getting them to pass a 10th grade math test are negligible,” Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the mayor of Lynn, told reporters Aug. 27.
Most of the city’s residents “are very afraid to speak publicly about it, because they don’t want to be branded as a racist,” Kennedy said.
But the voters tell her, via letters, emails and conversations, that “they are very concerned about the number of people coming in,” she said.
“They want to see it stopped. They’re glad I’m speaking up about it,” she said.
Many Central Americans have enrolled in the town’s schools, including 101 Guatemalans that were placed in the 9th grade during the 2013-14 school year, she said.
They’re a large part of the growing number of legal and illegal migrants — now roughly 1,200 over the last five years — that are crowding into the city’s schools. The growth is much faster than expected, she said. The city will open a new school schedule in 2016, but that still won’t provide enough space, she said.
The 101 new Guatemalan students in 2013-14 are part of the growing wave of Central American illegal migrants that have crossed the border to ask for asylum since 2010.
At least 180,000 low-skill Central American migrants have been allowed into the country since last October. That number includes at least 60,000 “unaccompanied alien minors” wh were accompanied by coyotes. The minors include kids, youths and people masquerading as teenagers.
Once they cross the border, many of the Guatemalans migrate to Lynn because the city already had a population of Guatemalans before the wave began, she said. Migrants settle where they have friends, she added.
Federal officials have not said where Central American families are being settled, pending the slow resolution of their asylum claims. Many of the migrants’ claims won’t be settled for several years.
The Department of Homeland Security won’t allow school officials to learn more about the migrants that arrive in Lynn, such as their age or even possible criminal records. Some of the migrants are clearly adults, Kennedy told reporters at an Aug. 27 press event in the National Press Club.
During 2013 enrollment, “we were seeing people with graying temples, people with more wrinkles around their eyes than I have,” she said.
The migrants have an incentive to lie about their age, because Obama is allowing Central American aged 18 or below to file for asylum.
They also have an incentive to enroll in schools. By registering in schools, the migrants are forcing the city to declare they are aged 18 or below, which helps their legal claim for asylum, residency and, eventually, citizenship.
The city’s truant officers can visit their homes when they don’t show up for school, Kennedy said. One woman at a student’s home told an truant officer that the so-called student “is 35 years of age, he’s not going to show up at school,” said Kennedy.
The city’s drop-out rate is rising, partly because some migrants quit school for work, she said. “We’ve had one of these students drop out four times already … [and] we see a lot of problem coming down the road.”
Many of the migrants are so unprepared for school that they’re dragging down Lynn’s apparent school performance, which threatens performance-based funding from the state, she said.
When “one gentleman presented his [enrollment] papers, he presented an arrest warrant” because he could not read English, she said. School officials called immigration officials, who have declined to say what became of that supposed student.
None of the students “come in with any criminal record history, so we have no way of knowing if they have been in trouble criminally in their home countries,” she said. ”I think that poses a danger for my children and my community at large.”
Guatemala’s population has one of the highest crime rates in the world.
The city has also had to hire nurses to provide hundreds of vaccinations to the incoming Guatemalans, she said.
“It does become very frustrating.”
The extra school costs have boosted the education by budget by nine percent, and forced a cut of almost five percent in other city services, she told reporters. For example, those cuts ended a neighborhood policing program that had helped cut gang activity by more than 50 percent.
The extra costs have eaten up the city’s $16.5 million reserve fund, the mayor continued. ”In the last couple years, it has all fallen apart.”
Kennedy told reporters she is visiting D.C. to meet with congressional staffers to ask for help.
The city’s residents are also paying directly because rents are rising as the population rises, she added.
“There’s a bidding war” for apartments, she explained, adding that “the landlords are happy to see the prices go up.”
There’s so much demand for apartments that some landlords are illegally covering houses as a rooming houses, she said.