Sanctuary Bill Would Endanger Maryland's Schoolchildren

Sanctuary Bill Would Endanger Maryland's Schoolchildren
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
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For most of the past year, Montgomery County, Maryland has prohibited local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Now, lawmakers in the Maryland Senate are trying to impose that "sanctuary" policy statewide.  

Their proposed bill, SB 901, has generated considerable opposition, mostly from people worried that sanctuary policies release dangerous criminals back into the community.

That's a legitimate fear, of course. Just look at the recent crimes committed by illegal immigrants in Montgomery County. In the two months following the start of last summer's sanctuary policy, nine illegal aliens were arrested for sexual assault. Just last month, prosecutors charged an illegal immigrant — who had previously been arrested but let go — with raping an 11-year-old girl.

But safety concerns aren't the only reason to oppose SB 901. Sanctuary policies act as a magnet for illegal immigrants. And our public institutions, especially our school systems, can't accommodate all these newcomers — even if they were perfectly law-abiding.

Nearly half of the 208 schools in Montgomery County — the state's largest school system — are operating at overcapacity. And the problem is likely to get far worse in the coming years. Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, for instance, will hit 126 percent of its capacity by the 2025-2026 school year.

These trends are deeply concerning. Overcrowding poses a serious threat to student achievement. Consider an analysis of New York City public schools, which found that pass rates on reading and math proficiency exams are significantly lower in overcrowded schools.  

Many overcrowded schools must hold classes in gymnasiums, cafeterias, and other facilities not designed for learning. Students and teachers in these schools often feel overwhelmed. Less-than-adequate building conditions are more than twice as common at overcrowded schools than at schools operating at- or under-capacity.

Redistricting or constructing new schools may provide some temporary relief. But it's not a long-term solution. As long as rapid growth remains the norm, space and resource shortages will continue to undermine educational attainment, exacerbating inequalities here in Maryland and around the country.

Our immigration policies are largely driving this overcrowding. Currently, America brings in 1.1 million new legal permanent residents, along with hundreds of thousands of guest workers and their families, each year. There also are a quarter of a million illegal immigrants in Maryland, who are attracted by the state's welcoming embrace of those who have violated federal immigration laws.

As a result, America's population is expected to grow by 79 million between now and 2060. And 95 percent of that growth will come from immigration, of both the illegal and legal varieties.

I don't mean for a moment to denigrate immigrants. I myself am an immigrant. I came to this country legally from Bangladesh to give myself and my family a chance at a better life. And I have enormous respect for others who have done the same.

But America simply can't accommodate the 160 million people around the world who, according to Gallup, would immediately move here if they could. There have to be numerical limits on how many foreigners we admit — and penalties for those who flout our laws by coming here without permission.

There's only one way to spare our kids from the consequences of a rapidly growing population — humanely scale back immigration levels.

Shakil Hamid, an immigrant from Bangladesh, lives in Gaithersburg, MD.

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