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Detained Immigrant Children Promised Five Hours of School Each Day

The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement today with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the ACLU says will improve conditions for immigrant children and their families at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which is a branch of the U.S. Homeland Security Department, followed up with its own announcement confirming the settlement and saying: "Indeed, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had already implemented many of the modifications contained in the final agreement."

Part of the settlement agreement describes the kind of schooling the center will provide. The 100 or so children now at the facility are guaranteed five hours of education per day that is based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards. The settlement agreement also says children will have teachers who are certified or who are enrolled in a program to become certified. It says students will have access to a computer lab and will receive classes in English as a second language. (See Exhibit C toward the end of the 34-page settlement agreement for stipulations regarding education.)

Before the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court in March against the federal government regarding the conditions at the center (for more on that, click here ), a number of nonprofit groups had said the schooling there was not adequate, Vanita Gupta, a staff attorney for the ACLU, told me today in a telephone interview. Children were grouped into only two large classes and received only one hour of instruction per day, she said. She added that teachers were not certified.

But she noted that the center responded to the criticism and made improvements in education before the ACLU filed its lawsuit and since then.

Under federal law, children picked up by U.S. immigration authorities and held in detention are entitled to the same schooling as other children. At the Boystown shelter in Miami for unaccompanied minors, for instance, three teachers employed by the Miami-Dade County school district provide a full day of schooling.

Each year more than 6,000 immigrant children spend some time in U.S. shelters for detainees. Typically, many of these children come from Central America and most of them know little or no English when they arrive in the United States.

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