Public K-12 schools and colleges that shelter migrants should be ineligible for federal funding, according to a bill approved along party lines by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Tuesday evening. It will now advance to the full House for consideration.
Republican supporters of H.R. 3941, the Schools Not Shelters Act, said the measure is needed to ensure school safety and funding.
The legislation grew out of a House resolution, but its transformation into a bill would make it enforceable if enacted. The measure only refers to the sheltering of "aliens who have not been admitted into the United States" — or people entering or living in the country without authorization.
The bill, according to committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., "says you can't house migrants in college dorms. You can't house illegal immigrants in middle school gyms. You can't house migrants on any school property if you want your federal funding. Schoolchildren are at risk of losing precious resources — or worse, at risk of physically being put in harm's way — if we do not pass this bill."
Some communities across the country, such as New York City, had previously announced emergency plans to shelter migrants in school buildings if needed.
Democrat opponents, however, called the 4-page proposal mean-spirited and a waste of time.
"If my colleagues want to keep students safe, then let’s focus our time on what is actually killing them, and that's guns," said ranking member Bobby Scott, D-Va., "Parents, teachers and students are begging us to take meaningful action, but unfortunately, we haven't made any progress on this subject."
A few opponents of the bill pointed out that schools are used as emergency shelters during weather-related events.
"Republicans on this committee want to punish schools only if they're helping migrants," said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. "The resolution last week and the legislation before us today has been only about opposing support for the migrant community."
Supporters, however, said it's unfair for taxpayer-funded schools to use their resources to house those who enter the country illegally.
"It's unfortunate that so many migrant children have parents who chose to break the law," Foxx said. "However, the solution is not to punish other children who are here legally by disrupting their education."
An amendment introduced by Takano said the bill affirms the U.S. Supreme Court 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe that guarantees 14th Amendment protections to educate all children living in a certain locality, regardless of immigrant status. That amendment failed, 19-16.