The number of migrant students coming in to Illinois’ DeKalb High School has nearly tripled this year, and officials there are now looking to taxpayers to help accommodate them.

Gail Cappaert, a multilingual case manager at the school, told WNIJ the number of “newcomer” students – those who have arrived in the U.S. within the last year speaking limited English – is typically around 10 per year.

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“Right now we have 28. So it’s actually more than double,” Cappaert said, “that’s a huge class for us.”

Those students are coming from Venezuela, El Salvador, Sudan and other countries, many to stay with family in the area. The influx comes with costs to the district and the community, and local officials are looking for ways to cover those expenses through taxpayer funded grants.

The problem is the 1982 Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe prohibits school officials from asking students or their parents about their immigration status, which is required under a state grant program that provides funds to serve arriving migrants.

The Supporting Municipalities for Asylum Seeker Services grant directs taxpayer money to serve asylum seekers who crossed the southern border since July 2022, and the DeKalb City Council is now looking at how it can apply for a piece of the pie. Gov. JB Pritzker committed $11 million to the second round of the grant program, which had an application deadline of Jan. 31.

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WNIJ notes “when the City of Elgin successfully applied for the grant program, they partnered with three nonprofit groups, including Centro De Informacion, which serves asylum seekers through its Illinois Welcoming Center.

“Within that program, they ask migrants to demonstrate documentation to verify their eligibility,” according to the news site.

In the meantime, Cappaert said she’s also working to help the newcomers overcome food insecurity with the help of the school’s food pantry, and to help them learn basic tasks like using a computer and learning English.

The city’s efforts to secure funds to address the migrant influx follows an ordinance adopted in January to regulate unscheduled bus stops in town, with a $1,000 per passenger fine for those that do not give advance notice of planned arrivals, Shaw Local reports.

“Ultimately, if we truly want to take care of the migrants, what we want to do is make sure that we can get them safely to Chicago, not dumped off at some random gas station along the interstate,” said DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes said, according to WTVO.

Barnes has suggested the city set aside funds to help migrants now, then apply for the state grant for reimbursement.

“If we had a fund, carve out ‘X’ amount of dollars towards this initiative when it comes to asylum seekers, I think, that’s a great step that we could take,” Barnes said. “When the need happens, we’ve got funds to make sure their housed and we’ve food. Then, we’ve applied for reimbursement of those.”

City Manager Bill Nicklas has blamed the federal government for creating the DeKalb’s current predicament by failing to support migrants it allows in.

“It’s failing to come up with answers to help people … desperately in need,” he said.

Others aren’t waiting for the government to step in, and instead are taking matters into their own hands.

Last month, dozens of community members met to establish the organization DeKalb Mutual Aid to prepare for more migrants to come. The group has spent weeks researching, and working with organizations and municipalities to develop a strategy, Shaw Local reports.

“With this groundswell of community support behind us, we’ve been honing our plan,” chairman Frankie DiCaccio said.

The city council is expected to revisit the migrant issue at its next meeting on Monday.