$1.5 Billion Per Year: The Cost of Educating the Unaccompanied Alien Minors Apprehended at the Border

moneyBeginning in 2014, a surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors (UAM) began to overrun the border. The Border Patrol apprehended 110,605 youth, almost all of them from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

This population will require at least $1.5 billion a year to put through school, an imposition of a massive unfunded mandate by the federal government, which allowed the UAM into the country and reminded schools of their obligation to educate them. Washington contributes around nine percent of the cost of education, so state and local revenue sources will have to ante up the rest: 91 percent.

This surge comes at a terrible time for the country’s beleaguered public education system. In May, students in Boston walked out of their high schools to protest budget cuts. Chicago is bracing for an historic gutting of its schools when the budget shrinks 20 percent for the 2016-2017 school year. And in Oklahoma City this May, students left their classes to demonstrate against teacher layoffs and reductions to sports and arts programs.

How, then, will Massachusetts absorb 2,944 UAM at a cost of $57 million? What will be the impact of 1,166 UAM in Illinois, most of whom will end up in Chicago? To teach them will cost $18 million. Oklahoma will receive 786 UAM and be forced to spend $7 million educating them.

The vast majority of UAM enroll in LEP programs, which costs more per pupil. In the 1982 Plyler v. Doe case, the Supreme Court ruled that illegal aliens have a right to be educated on the taxpayer’s dime. If school districts hire all of the 82,804 Limited English Proficiency (LEP) teachers that the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition projects will be needed to educate the nation’s LEP students, the cost will be $26 billion. It already costs $59.2 billion to fund LEP programs nationwide.

In 2014, the Obama administration, well aware of the precedent, distributed a memo to all schools reminding them of their obligations. The Education Department provided the carrot (directing local school districts resources) while deploying the Justice Department to provide the stick (veiled threats of lawsuits). The memo represented “the first time that a single piece of guidance has addressed the array of federal laws that govern schools’ obligations to English learners.”

Besides the money to educate this population, another problem is that these students are progressing poorly in school. Graduation rates for LEP students are dismal and obviously, the longer a UAM stays in school, the more he or she will cost. So either we spend boatloads of money educating these youngsters or they drop out of school and remain illiterate.

States complain about unfunded mandates all the time, but where is hue and cry over this one, which is directly attributed to the federal government’s dereliction of duty regarding the country’s immigration laws?

One out of every three students in Boston and Nashville are in LEP programs. In Denver, 40 percent of the students are LEP. In Georgia, the figure is one in five. One study suggests that LEP students drag down the performance of native pupils. Unquestionably, resources are being diverted from traditional programs to LEP students. How long will students and their parents sit back and accept this situation?

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Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar

    How many children are we talking about. What is the salary of the teachers, the cost to rent, lease facilities? Does these costs include housing, clothing, food, medical expenses or just education? This is ridiculous. This cost should be subtracted from the humanitarian funds we send to these countries, or not send them anything at all. Why should we be paying double?

    • avatar

      The SCOTUS rule that we much educate illegal aliens. But, I don’t recall them saying we cannot charge them for it. This is why we need to round them all up and return them to their home countries. Better yet, cutoff all local, state, and federal paid benefits. Employers got there hands in every Senator and House members back pockets. Employers need to be levied $100k per illegal alien in their employment, first offense. 2nd offend managers, HR and anyone who knows should go to jail a minute of 2 years.

      • avatar

        You’re correct. The Supreme Court said they must be educated while they are here. But that does not protect them from being deported, as some people assume.

  2. avatar

    The continual rape of U.S. taxpayers, all because of the imbeciles that pervade OUR government.

    • avatar
      Ken Trefaller on

      Add to that kids are being “brain washed by the Little Red School Houses we send them too. It has been going on for fifty years. How else do account for Sanders youthful following?

  3. avatar

    “Chicago is bracing for an historic gutting of it’s schools when the budget shrinks 20% for the 2016-2017 school year.” Anyone asking Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Chicago Democrat, about that? Of course not, because the media doesn’t ask those questions. Gutierrez has long invited all illegals to come to that city and their leadership has lavished massive welfare programs on them.

    The entire state is in a financial crisis, taxes and fees have been raised and raised and raised yet again, and it’s never enough. A lot of their citizens are moving to Indiana because they don’t want to be soaked of every penny they make.

    Jesse Jackson endorsed Hillary Clinton this week. When are blacks going to wake up and realize that all this recent immigration is coming at their expense, whether it’s jobs or schools, and they need to stop listening to their leaders that continue to support it.

    The day of reckoning is coming. These states like Illinois and California that encourage illegals to come there are falling ever deeper into a financial pit, and they think they can avoid the problem by raising taxes every year. But eventually that well runs dry. But you know what’s coming next. They will want bailouts from the federal government, just like Puerto Rico. They have half the island on food stamps and Medicaid and no income tax owed on any money earned there. And yet with all that they are bankrupt. Then their citizens move to Florida and vote for the same “show me the money” candidates.

  4. avatar

    America’s Educational System

    Has become an English as a 2nd language educational sphere to foreign invaders to pillage our graduation rates and destroy our math and science….what’s in it for legal American students? More degradation and horrification.

    • avatar

      You’re never going to get that story in the media either. NBC is totally in the bag for Hillary. The Today Show and Nightly News feature nothing but criticism of Trump and then they have so called experts on who just pile on more. Nothing from another point of view. Trump gets like a ten second clip vs. an avalanche of criticism. It’s true a lot of the Republican establishment may not like what he says, but when did they? Nothing new about that.

      • avatar

        Yes Leland

        They blame our legal American youth education rating for a reason for in-sourcing foreigners, after all, American citizen youth are all idiots anyway….how about blame the “ROOT CAUSE”; American youth citizens feel hopeless now….IS NOT THEIR FAULT!

        Blame open border pundits!