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Lawmakers battle over bill preventing schools from housing illegal immigrants

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The House Rules Committee held a hearing Monday discussing the “Schools Not Shelters Act”, legislation designed to prevent public schools from allocating school resources and using taxpayer funds to help shelter illegal immigrants within their campus.

The act would cut funding to public elementary or secondary schools that tried to shelter illegal immigrants, citing it as a safety hazard for students as Republicans argue it is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The discussion around schools housing illegal immigrants arose after New York City contemplated using public schools to shelter migrants.

“This misguided proposal hijacked the core education mission of public schools,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., Chairman of the Rules Committee, said in the hearing. “It is the ongoing refusal of the Biden administration to secure the southern border that led to this absurd scheme.”

The border, which had over 200,000 encounters between migrants and border patrol in May 2023 alone, continues to raise security concerns, which Cole said was increased by allowing these illegal aliens into children’s schools.

“Our nation’s children deserve better. [The bill] will make sure that no educational dollars go to any state or city that allows our kids to shoulder the burden of turning our schools into shelters,” Cole said. “Public elementary and secondary schools are to be used to educate America’s next generation, period. Any state or city that tries to do otherwise should not receive federal educational funding.”

The bill, which Cole said should be bipartisan and “non-controversial,” stirred up resistance from Democratic committee members.

Many argued that the bill did not tackle the real problems at schools and the border, namely in terms of gun control and paid support for dedicated shelter groups. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., specifically spoke out against the legislation.

“If Republicans were serious about helping students, they would work to address learning loss, provide adequate funding for schools, and do everything possible to end our nation’s school shooting epidemic,” he said. McGovern also mentioned Republicans’ refusal to help eliminate student debt.

He said that Republicans were being hypocritical with the bill, overreaching their federal power on the states.

“This is just another inflammatory, uninformed, targeted policy that demonizes immigrants and perpetuates the GOP’s culture war,” McGovern said.

The House placed the act on the Union Calendar on June 30. It may be considered on the House floor before the end of the month.

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