November 24, 2014 by Debra Gittler


During 2014, nearly 70,000 kids have crossed the US border, unaccompanied and undocumented. Obama’s recent executive action to address immigration and delay deportation has brought these kids back into the spotlight: he vows to deport “criminals, not kids.”

Meanwhile, today’s NY Post article announces that 2,350 of those undocumented youth will be entering NYC DOE schools, costing about $50 million. “But the costs could soar, because the youths — many of them victims of poverty and abuse — will need state-mandated English-language instruction, free or reduced-price lunch, and a range of other services, including psychological counseling, medical and dental.”

And that’s the costs just for New York City. On a national level, the cost is billions of dollars. And even if we somehow manage to stop the kids at the border, we haven’t done anything to address the root causes that encourage them to migrate. Whether they leave home to flee violence or in search of opportunity, the trigger continues to be home countries that aren’t capable of providing their children basic safety and opportunity. Closing the borders or delaying deportation doesn’t change that.

Every feasible, long-term solution to this crisis involves investing more in schools and education in the countries of origin. But I’ve yet to read a single article that stresses this essential component to reform. Even from a purely financial incentive—especially from a purely financial incentive—investing in the home countries is the smartest solution!

No matter what the US government does and how our school and social systems adjust to take on the burden, undocumented migration will not cease without addressing the root causes in the countries of origin. Helping these kids and their families avoid migration—through improved education and increased social services—is the only long-term solution. Everything else is just a Band-Aid.

I’m exceedingly proud that ConTextos is addressing the roots of the problem. But also flabbergasted that our message still doesn’t resonate:

Give these kids—and their families— a chance at home! Invest in them before they become “a problem” for US border control and social services. Not just because it’s the best use of our financial resources, but because it’s the humane thing to do!

Debra Gittler
Founder and Executive Director

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