Public K-12 schools and universities that house migrants on their campuses would have their federal education funding stripped away under legislation passed by a 222-201 mostly partisan House vote late Wednesday.
H.R. 3941, known as the Schools Not Shelters Act and introduced by Rep. Marcus Molinaro, R-N.Y., aims to prevent school funds from being diverted to support immigrants crossing into the country illegally. The bill also would protect student safety, according to its supporters.
The measure is a rebuke of President Joe Biden's immigration policies, which bill supporters said allow too many migrants to cross the border without first going through the steps to request legal entry.
"The Schools Not Shelters Act sends a message that Republicans will not stand for the left's sanctuary cities that continue to run cover for this administration," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on the House floor Tuesday. "Nothing outweighs the success and safety of students."
Unlikely to become law
Despite the House passage, the bill is unlikely to gain further footing or become law. There is no companion legislation in the Senate, and the White House has already condemned the proposal.
A statement from the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday said the bill would "supersede local control, interfering with the ability of States and municipalities to effectively govern and make decisions about their school buildings," as well as take federal funding away from schools.
It's unclear exactly how many schools across the country have opened their doors to temporarily house migrants. The bill's supporters have criticized New York City's plans to house migrants in stand-alone school gyms if needed.
At the higher education level, the nonprofit Every Campus a Refuge organizes host colleges to support the resettlement of refugees. The group's goal is to make every college a resettlement campus.
The House last month already voted along party lines on a resolution that condemns the use of elementary and secondary schools as emergency shelters for migrants, but that measure would make no changes to existing law.
H.R. 3941, however, has the potential to cut off grants for Title I, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other federal funding resources to schools.
Democrats opposing the legislation nicknamed it the "Scapegoating Not Solutions Act" and "Shutting Out Students Act."
"It's frustrating that we're taking up another proposal that, among other things, purports to improve school safety yet does nothing to address school safety, does nothing to address learning loss, does nothing to address gun violence in schools or improve students’ mental health," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., ranking member of the Education and Workforce committee, during a House floor discussion.
The bill "would punish public schools and colleges and students for showing humanity," said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore. "This is the second time in less than a month that the majority is bringing legislation to the floor that discriminates against and scapegoats vulnerable people based on their identity."
The proposal, Bonamici said, would "deepen disparities rather than improve public education."
In response, Molinaro acknowledged the bill is not intended to address specific education initiatives, such as a "fix" for IDEA or a way to improve vocational education — efforts he said he supports. Rather, it is aimed only at addressing the border crisis, he said.
"I respect, truly respect, this desire to be a compassionate people," Molinaro said. "But it is not compassionate to displace schoolchildren. It is not compassionate to close down schools and convert them into shelters."
The bill makes an exemption for school-based housing of migrants when there is a natural disaster.