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I-Team Exclusive: How Will Local School Districts Handle Increase In Undocumented Students?

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By Charlotte Huffman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This year the federal government expects 60,000 undocumented child immigrants to enter school districts around the country.

The I-Team’s cameras were allowed to video these children as long as we don’t show their faces. They’re undocumented immigrants from Central America who left their families behind this year and crossed the border.

Now in the hands of the federal government, they’ll attend Philadelphia schools this fall.

(Huffman:) Te gusta Philadelphia?

“Sí.”

They say they like it here. Much better than the gang violence ridden streets many of them left behind.

“Part of the challenges that they face here are very much connected to the challenges they faced before they left their home countries,” said Cathi Tillman, Director of La Puerta Abierta.

Tillman runs La Puerta Abierta, a Philadelphia non-profit that provides counseling to undocumented child immigrants.

“Often times they come with very disrupted education or no education at all, so when they come here they’re coming with pretty big bags of challenges,” she said.

These children will require extra counseling and English as a second language programs.

And not all parents are happy about it.

“I definitely think it should be addressed and I don’t think my child should be at the bottom of the totem pole,” parent Rose Kennedy said.

Pennsylvania schools will have to make room for almost 400 undocumented children this fall. In Delaware more than 100 and in new Jersey, more than 1,500. In all, that’s enough to fill nearly 70 classrooms.

Despite budget cuts and an $81 million shortfall, Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard says the 230 teachers devoted to helping students like these won’t change.

“We haven’t cut the budget for ESL teachers in the last three years,” Gallard said, “so our services continue to be the same for students who need ESL services.”

We asked education officials in New Jersey and Delaware how they’ll handle the increase in undocumented students.

New Jersey officials declined to comment.

Delaware officials said it will be a challenge, but said they’ll work with non-profits and the federal government to ensure basic needs are met.

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