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Report Estimates Cost Of Educating Unaccompanied Children

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
Jack moved to Dallas after three years at WESH-TV, the NBC affil...
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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – The 16-year-old boy from El Salvador who spoke with CBS 11 News doesn’t want to be identified. Like so many other unaccompanied children, he says he illegally crossed the Texas border two years ago.

Through a translator he said, “I came to the United States to join my mom.”

The teenager lives with his mom in a Dallas apartment, and attends a Dallas ISD high school. He says he’s met seven other students from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Here in the States the boy says he’s getting a better education here than in El Salvador for several reasons. “Free food and just better opportunities in the schools. It’s been tough learning English, but everything has been good.”

According to Dallas Independent School District officials, the district educated at least 400 children from Central America last year. A district spokesman says they don’t know how the children arrived in the U.S. It cost the district more than $3 million.

John Ting is the youngster’s attorney and advocate. “Every person has a right to education.” He’s glad federal law requires all children to go to school even if they’re not citizens.

Ting said, “I believe it’s the right thing to educate children because it would allow them an opportunity because we don’t want to create a system where every person if they do end up having the right to stay in the U.S., that they’re in the poverty level. We want to bring people up.”

A new report from the Texas Legislative Budget Board says by the end of the calendar year, there could be about 8,400 unaccompanied children from Central America here in Texas. The state estimates educating them this school year will cost about $75 million.

Katrina Pierson is a member of the Garland Tea party. “I think it’s a big concern,” she said. “The problem hasn’t been dealt with. They’re still coming across the border. I don’t believe $75 million is the number. I think it could be doubled by the time this is over.”

The 16-year-old student says many people back in El Salvador believe what they hear about the U.S. “They think they’ll get help here, that they’ll let them stay but it’s really not like that.”

He has a message for those who believe he and others should be deported. “I think it’s wrong, we all hae the right to be reunited with our family. I think most of us come because of fear and we want to better ourselves.”

After two years in Dallas, the youngster is still waiting to go before an immigration judge who will decide whether he can stay in the U.S. or must be deported.

Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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