GOP Strikes Gold: House Passes Groundbreaking Act to Protect Public Schools

On July 19th, the House of Representatives approved a groundbreaking bill, H.R. 3941, also known as the “Schools Not Shelters Act.” This legislation, introduced by Representative Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), prohibits public K-12 schools and higher education institutions from being used as shelters for individuals unlawfully entering the United States. This move is seen as a significant step towards upholding the sanctity of our educational institutions.

The bill was passed with a 222-201 vote, with four Democrats joining the unanimous Republican support. This legislation strictly forbids the use of public elementary and secondary schools, as well as higher education institutions, as shelters for unauthorized immigrants. Institutions that adhere to this law avoid losing federal funding.

However, the bill allows temporary sheltering in the event of a “specified disaster,” such as forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that warrant a disaster declaration by the federal or state government. The legislation also extends to schools in the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Following the bill’s passage, Representative Molinaro, the bill’s author, expressed that parents across New York have consistently voiced their concerns about public school gymnasiums being used as shelters amidst the surge of unauthorized immigrants.

New York City has grappled with over 90,000 unauthorized immigrants since the spring of 2022, primarily from the U.S. southern border. This surge has strained the city’s homeless shelter system, leading to the use of emergency hotels to accommodate the unprecedented levels of unauthorized immigrants.

In response to this crisis, some areas, such as Broome County, which has a limited housing capacity, have declared a state of emergency over the potential relocation of immigrants from New York City.

Representative Molinaro, a father of four, empathized with the concerns of parents who oppose housing migrants in schools. He emphasized that schools should be places for academics, athletics, community services, and vital therapy for children. They are not designed to serve as migrant shelters. He also stressed the need for a compassionate approach to the migrant crisis.

The legislator criticized transporting migrants from the southern border to New York City and Upstate New York. He argued that it is not compassionate to relocate individuals to unfamiliar areas and schools not equipped to serve as migrant shelters. He insisted that our children, Upstate New York residents, and the migrants seeking a better life deserve much better.

However, the White House has vehemently opposed the bill, suggesting President Biden may veto it. The administration argues that the legislation would undermine local control, interfering with the ability of states and municipalities to govern and make decisions about their school buildings.

Despite the White House’s opposition, the bill’s passage in the House represents a significant step towards preserving the integrity of our educational institutions. It remains to be seen if the bill could pass the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.