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  • Newly Arrived Immigrant Youth Face Challenges to School Enrollment

    Mar 18, 2024

    Early evening at Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project, a drop-in center for homeless youth in February. The organization says it has referred around 60 cases of migrants directly to the New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) since January, but only six have been enrolled so far.
    Adi Talwar

    City Limits – The 20-year-old from Mauritania arrived in the city four months ago with the dream of graduating from high school in the United States.

    “I want to make my life better. I am still a baby, and I should go to school to have more experience, to have more knowledge,” the youth—who preferred not to be identified by name, citing past experiences with other media—said in fluent English, something he quickly picked up from daily interactions, adding to the multitude of languages he already speaks. “I don’t want to lose my time.”

    In only four months, he has moved from one shelter to the other: living first in Manhattan, then Brooklyn, and now the Bronx, after the city instituted a 30-day shelter limit for adult migrants in the city last year, which was extended last week to 60 days for adults under 23 as part of the city’s “right to shelter” settlement.

    But advocates say many immigrant youth have learned the hard way that they needed an appointment at these sites before showing up.

    “[It] doesn’t sound like a huge issue,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of the Immigrant Students Rights Project at Advocates for Children of New York. “But if you’re brand new to the country, and you’re already very confused and trying to make a lot of pieces fit together, and make the trip to the Family Welcome Center, and they tell you that you can’t be there, that you have to go back—that might be a reason alone why a family decides to just stop trying.”