LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Immigration policy has been widely discussed in the U.S. lately, as refugees flood into the country attempting to escape violence in Mexico and Central America.
Federal law requires that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors while they await immigration proceedings.
Over the summer, the federal government estimated that 90,000 children, primarily from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, could make the journey to the U.S. border by themselves during the fall, and that as many as 145,000 of them could arrive in 2015.
Casa de Maryland spokesman George Escobar told WNEW in September that the D.C. area has received more kids per capita than anywhere else in the country.
According to the latest statistics from ORR, Maryland and Virginia have become home to 6,620 immigrant children since Jan. 1, 2014.
In a September Board of Supervisors meeting, Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity asked County Executive Edward L. Long Jr. to calculate the costs associated with providing services to those children, and to look at options to recover the money from the federal government or the Commonwealth.
The Washington Post reports that Loudoun County is also looking into studying the cost of educating the minors.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors member Pete Candland announced in October that he would send an invoice to the Obama administration for the education costs of immigrant children placed in that county.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, the county where the most immigrant children have been placed announced in July that it will build two new schools designed to improve achievement rates among students learning English as a second language.
Prince George’s County received a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to build the new facilities, which will “provide immigrant students, as well as those who are economically disadvantaged and prospective first generation college attendees, with an innovative opportunity to complete their high school diploma.”
One of the schools will be in the Langley Park area and the other will be a school-within-a-school in another part of the county. They are expected to open at the start of the 2015-2016 school year.
The following is county-level data from the ORR for unaccompanied children released to sponsors by the counties where the sponsors live, where 50 or more children have been released since January 1, 2014.
Anne Arundel County / 180
Baltimore City / 312
Baltimore County / 253
Frederick County / 167
Howard County / 115
Montgomery County / 948
Prince George’s County / 1,114
Alexandria City / 233
Arlington County / 154
Chesterfield County / 120
Fairfax County / 1,177
Harrisonburg City / 70
Henrico County / 58
Loudoun County / 237
Manassas City / 114
Norfolk City / 66
Prince William County / 437
Richmond City / 138