Damien Salinas feels giddy. He’s just five years old. As he leaves a homeless shelter in Manhattan, New York, he runs and skips.
The little boy came from Ecuador. Now he’s headed to school in America.
“What I want for him is a future,” says his mom, Kimberly Carchipulla, in Spanish.
Damien isn’t the only kid from another country headed to school in New York City this fall. Nearly 20,000 others are too!
And that number could grow. Many families have fled their home countries to come to the United States. Authorities in several big U.S. cities wonder: How can we make room for all these new people in schools?
Eric Adams is the mayor of New York City. He says the city’s schools are ready for newcomers. New York City has nearly 1,900 schools. The schools have welcomed immigrants with limited English skills for a long time. But others say schools just don’t have enough money to keep up with the huge numbers of new students.
Damien worried about whether he’d be able to understand his teacher or make friends. Have you ever gone to a new school? It can feel scary. Imagine what it would feel like if no one spoke your language!
Thankfully, Damien should get some help. In New York City, around 3,400 teachers are licensed to teach English as a second language. More than 1,700 teachers speak both English and Spanish.
For the past two months, Damien’s family has been living in a room at Manhattan’s historic Roosevelt Hotel. That hotel was closed for years. Then New Yorkers turned it into a shelter for migrants. Damien’s dad has been looking for work.
Damien’s mom hopes he will have good teachers who are kind and patient. She wants him to make friends. She misses relatives in Ecuador. Their home had become a dangerous place to live. “We came to a place where we don’t have family,” she says. “It was hard.”
Government officials often disagree about letting people into the country from other places. Some immigrants cross the U.S. border illegally. But many teachers want these kids to learn, no matter where they came from.
“We are welcoming all these new migrant students into our schools with open arms,” says Education Chancellor David C. Banks. “We know it’s a larger political issue [that] the mayor and others have to deal with. But when they show up in our schools, they’re going to get the best that we have.”
Damien just says, “I want to meet new friends. And I want to learn English.”
You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. — Exodus 23:9