A Massachusetts mayor claims the public school district in her town was forced to register possibly undocumented migrants who were clearly adults but were forbidden by the federal government from verifying their ages.
Judith Flanagan Kennedy, mayor of Lynn, made the claims Wednesday to an anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., saying unaccompanied minors from Guatemala had overwhelmed the city’s public health, trash collection, and education services.
“Speaking out about this, I have been called a racist,” Kennedy said. “I have been called a hater. That is not the case.”
Kennedy claimed “out of country” students enrolling in Lynn’s school jumped from 54 in 2010 to 538 last year, including what the mayor claims were 101 unaccompanied minors in the ninth grade last year.
“The vast majority of them were claiming to be between 14 and 17 years old, but there were people with graying temples, hair around the temples, there were people with more wrinkles than I have around the eyes,” said Kennedy, who is in her 50s. “A lot of them were illiterate not only in English but also in Spanish and spoke a tribal dialect, a mountain dialect.”
However, she admitted she hadn’t seen any of those wrinkled, graying students herself, and she isn’t sure how many of the students are legal immigrants.
“We were told through a directive from the Department of Justice that we were not to question or verify – attempt to verify these ages,” Kennedy said.
DOJ officials have reminded public schools they must enroll all students within the legal age limits for public education – which in Massachusetts is 3 to 21 years old — regardless of immigration status.
The Department of Health and Human Services has said 135 unaccompanied children from Guatemala were placed this year in Lynn, which has an already sizable Guatemalan population among its 90,000 residents.
Watch this video report posted online by CNS News: