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More immigrant minors placed in Alabama in 2022

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News 

More than 2,200 unaccompanied minors detained at the U.S.’s southern border were sent to Alabama between October 2021 and August 2022, according to federal data.

With one month of reporting left for fiscal year 2022, that figure surpasses recent previous years, including 1,946 in fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2020, 271 minors arrived in Alabama through federal placement, according to records.

Alabama Daily News has previously reported on state leaders’ frustration with federal policies and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They also say it points to a larger illegal immigration issue.

“The (President Joe Biden) administration refuses to do anything to address this situation,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said recently.

When minors not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian are apprehended at the border, federal law requires that the ORR feed, shelter and provide medical care to them. The office then releases them to sponsors, usually family members, while the minors await immigration proceedings.

The ORR reports counties that have received 50 or more of the minors in a given year. Last year, there were seven such counties in Alabama. Through August of fiscal 2022, there were 15:

  • Baldwin: 155
  • Chambers: 69
  • Coffee: 82
  • DeKalb: 64
  • Franklin: 83
  • Houston: 71
  • Jefferson: 282
  • Lee: 204
  • Limestone: 55
  • Madison: 107
  • Marshall: 178
  • Mobile: 109
  • Montgomery: 140
  • Morgan: 102
  • Tuscaloosa: 109

“This is the Alabama experience in numbers since President Joe Biden took office,” Orr said. “And what does this do? It means more children we need to educate, more children that we’re not collecting taxes for, so we have to pay for their education, we have to pay for their health care …

“The taxpayers of Alabama have to pay because of the administration not doing its job.”

Nationwide, 118,486 unaccompanied minors were detained in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2022. That compares to 107,686 in all of 2021. Most of the minors are teen males from Central America.

The youths, if they are enrolled in school, can present a challenge to public school systems around the state because they may have limited formal educational experiences and often don’t speak English.

Unaccompanied minors released to sponsors in Alabama, by fiscal year:

  • 2015: 808
  • 2016: 870
  • 2017: 598
  • 2018: 736
  • 2019: 1,111
  • 2020: 247
  • 2021: 1,946
  • 2022 (October 2021 through August 2022): 2,241

Source: Office of Refugee Resettlement

Orr, who chairs the Senate education budget committee, has previously said the immigrant youths were driving down test scores in schools in his area, which in turn negatively impacts home sales and economic growth. Earlier this year, the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey approved legislation that says English language learners’ test scores can’t be considered when assigning an academic achievement grade to a school or school system for the first five years of enrollment of the student.

Supporters of the bill said schools with large ELL populations are unfairly impacted in the state’s annual assignment of letter grades that are meant to give the public an apples-to-apples comparison of schools.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups say these populations are vulnerable to exploitation. Earlier this month, the Alabama Department of Labor issued and collected more than $35,000 in civil monetary penalties for violations of Alabama’s Child Labor Law by two businesses. SL Alabama, LLC, an auto parts supplier in Alexander City, and JK USA, an Opelika-based temporary employment agency providing workers to automotive suppliers, were fined for multiple violations involving the employment of a 14, 15 and 16 year old. The teens are undocumented and believed to be from Central America, a ADOL spokesperson said.

Historically, the young immigrants in Alabama have located to areas with agricultural industries, including chicken processing plants.


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