High School

Child Trafficking Alleged In NJ High School Basketball Juggernaut

A basketball powerhouse may have violated immigration laws while stacking its teams

High School
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Feb 24, 2017 at 12:16 PM ET

A New Jersey high school with a powerhouse basketball program faces damning allegations that it violated immigration laws and did not provide proper child welfare for international students, according to a bombshell investigation published by NJ Advance Media on Friday.

Paterson Eastside High School has had at least eight foreign teenagers matriculate in the last four years, including seven from Nigeria and one from Paraguay, many of them arriving under the auspices of Form I-20 even though Eastside is not apparently not certified to offer this program. Just three weeks ago, a separate NJ Advance Media report found up to six players living with the coach, with one player quoted as saying that there wasn’t enough food for all of them.

The boys high school team’s season ended abruptly before its scheduled conclusion and a district spokeswoman declined to answer the media company’s questions.

A prominent immigration attorney based in Atlanta, Charles Kuck, when apprised of the situation at Paterson, told the reporters that this “sounds like child trafficking.”

According to the report, New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency, the state interscholastic athletic body, and Immigration & Customs Enforcement are among the agencies reviewing the case.

Kuck, who previously served as national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the school could have culpability for not investigating the circumstances under which all these talented international basketball players have arrived at the school.

“How many are there—eight? Nine? Nobody’s paying attention?” Kuck told NJ Advance Media. “That’s odd. We have all these kids form Nigeria coming here to play basketball and they happen to be undocumented students. This is kind of weird.

“Nobody opens an eyelash about that?”

It’s one thing to set up a structured program by which such international players arrive, are cared for, mentored, coached, and given the tools needed to thrive academically and athletically. But this situation reeks of negligence and appears to be a circumstance in which adult coaches are taking advantage of teenage students who happen to have extraordinary basketball ability.