The U.S. House of Representatives voted on a resolution Thursday to condemn the use of elementary and secondary schools as emergency shelters for migrants.
The 223-201 vote on the Republican-sponsored H. Res. 461 is not a prohibition and makes no changes to existing law. However, the House is also set to consider similar action under H.R. 3941, the Schools Not Shelters Act, which would strip federal funding from public K-12 schools and colleges that host migrants. That bill advanced out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on June 13.
Supporters of the resolution said the use of schools as emergency shelters for those entering the country without first taking legal steps to do so threatens students' ability to learn and compromises students' safety.
In prepared remarks for debate on the House floor, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chair of the Education and the Workforce committee, said, "H. Res. 461 is a crystal-clear rebuke of the chaos at the border. It applies to K-12 institutions, because make no mistake, Democrats are making elementary, middle, and high schools a battleground for chaotic border policies."
The nation's "failed border security strategy" has "encouraged illegal aliens to cross the border," said a report submitted by Foxx ahead of Thursday's resolution vote.
The report also criticized New York City's temporary plan to house migrants in school buildings. "It is time to send a message that schools should be used for educating children, not sheltering adults who chose to enter the country illegally," the report said.
Over the past year, some southern states with Republican governors have bused or used other transportation to move newly-arrived migrants to cities that have declared themselves more lenient to immigration enforcement.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in a June 14 statement, said since last spring, the state has bused 21,600 migrants to places such as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago.
The viewpoint of lawmakers in opposition of the resolution was also included in the report attached to H. Res. 461. Public schools, Democratic opponents said, have a history of sheltering people during emergencies. They questioned why the resolution only singles out the specific emergency use for migrants. Opponents also said Republicans have not offered evidence that students' learning is harmed if they attend a school housing migrants.
"H. Res. 461 is inflammatory, provocative, uninformed, and at the end of the day, pointless," the opponents said. "Instead of spending the Committee's time on meaningful legislation within our jurisdiction to deal with learning loss and school safety, we frittered away our time on a vitriolic proposal."
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., in prepared remarks for debate on Thursday's resolution vote, said the resolution was a "haphazard proposal and another distraction."
"If my colleagues are serious about addressing learning loss, we should be talking about evidence-based strategies that meet the needs of our students," Scott said. "There’s nothing in the resolution that addresses learning loss or mental health.”