Jun 12, 2013 | Permalink »
Rubio Immigration Amendment Would Delay Path to Citizenship for Millions
Update: The Senate will continue debate and consider amendments to S. 744 throughout the next two weeks in June and a vote on final passage of the bill is expected by the July 4th congressional recess.
This week, the Senate began floor debate on their immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). The proposal that passed out of the Judiciary Committee is the result of months of bipartisan negotiations and includes provisions to increase border security measures and create a path to earned citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, beginning with a new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.
The bill includes strict English language, employment, and income requirements, in addition to background checks and fees for immigrants to enter and remain on the path to citizenship, and envisions that it will take most undocumented workers at least 13 years to transition from RPI to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status and then become citizens.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a member of the “Gang of Eight” that negotiated this bill, which represents a bipartisan compromise. Nonetheless, this week, Rubio announced that the bill’s requirement that immigrants learn English or be enrolled in a “course of study” prior to gaining LPR status does not go far enough. Current law already requires English language proficiency when immigrants seek to naturalize and become citizens. The Senate immigration bill would take this even further by applying this requirement when RPI’s seek LPR status. Rubio has proposed an amendment that would make the requirements even more stringent by eliminating the ability of immigrants to satisfy the requirement by enrolling in a course; instead, it would require them to be fully proficient prior to earning LPR status.
Rubio’s game-changing amendment places a significant and undue burden on immigrants, lengthening their path to legalization by demanding they meet the high standard of English language proficiency prior to obtaining LPR status. English proficiency is an important part of integration; however, more stringent requirements would only create additional barriers—and significant delays—for the 11 million undocumented workers potentially seeking to become legalized residents and, ultimately, citizens.
Moreover, the underlying bill provides few additional resources to assist immigrants in fulfilling the already-existing English language requirements, despite the fact that, at present, English as a Second Language (ESL) services in the U.S. suffer from extremely limited capacity. Federal funding for adult education, the primary system that provides English language and adult literacy services, is scarce, with just $560 million appropriated annually that serves only 1.8 million adult learners--about 6 percent of the population that could benefit from such services. These programs also have waitlists in 49 states, with some longer than one year. By contrast, analysis of a similar provision in previous immigration proposals determined that it would cost billions to assist these new learners. Rubio’s proposed amendment contains no additional resources for adult education/ESL, but increases the stringency of the language requirements, intensifying the urgency for these types of services to help immigrants meet the demands of the prospective law.
Integration services help ensure newly-legalized immigrants fully access the economic and social benefits of the U.S. and are key to successful immigration reform. However, instituting English language requirements as a prerequisite for beginning their journey to citizenship puts an undue burden on immigrant workers, delays their time to citizenship, and puts considerable stress on an already overflowing adult education system. While strict, the English language requirements found in the underlying bipartisan bill create a more fair system of earned legalization.
Apr 12, 2013 | Permalink »
President’s Budget Calls for Pathways Back to Work Fund
By Neil Ridley
The President’s budget blueprint released on Wednesday calls for Congress to support employment and job training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and low-income adults and youth through the Pathways Back to Work Fund. Even as the economy recovers, too many unemployed workers and individuals with low education and skill levels face a difficult job market. This legislative proposal, which was introduced as part of the American Jobs Act, builds on the successful, two-year program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that provided jobs for about 260,000 people in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
The proposed Pathways Back to Work Fund in the budget includes three components:
- $8 billion for employment opportunities and support services for unemployed, low-income adults;
- $2.5 billion for summer and year-round employment opportunities for low-income youth, ages 16-24; and
- $2 billion for work-based employment strategies with demonstrated effectiveness, such as on-the-job training, sector-based training and programs that integrate basic skills instruction and occupational skills training.
This key employment strategy is still needed to reach those who are left behind as the economy recovers from the Great Recession. Nearly two out of five unemployed workers have been jobless for six months or more. Individuals with low education and skill levels continue to experience unemployment rates that are significantly higher than those of more educated workers. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the sequestration’s automatic budget cuts that have gone into effect are expected to further dampen economic growth and reduce employment by 750,000 jobs by the end of the year.
Subsidized and transitional jobs are a proven way to give unemployed workers the opportunity to earn wages, build skills, and connect to the labor market, while also giving businesses an incentive to hire new employees when they might not have been able to do so otherwise. Researchers who have examined the implementation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act workforce programs have found that paid work opportunities have been effectively used even for experienced unemployed workers who need to rebuild their confidence and prepare for reemployment.
A mix of non-profit, workforce agencies, and city and state public entities have operated transitional jobs and subsidized employment programs for almost 30 years as discussed in a new paper by the National Transitional Jobs Network and CLASP. If Congress authorizes the Pathways Back to Work Fund, this short-term federal investment would expand those strategies that prepare adults and youth for employment in a very difficult job environment. It’s the right investment at the right time for those who need it most.
Mar 12, 2013 | Permalink »
New York’s Move to Abandon the GED® is a Game Changer
New York State made headlines last week after it announced it would be dropping the GED® as its high school equivalency exam—a move that can only be defined as a “game changer” in adult education. Instead, the state will be working with CTB/McGraw Hill to develop an alternative exam, the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), which New York believes will keep costs low and allow its Education Department to continue to serve adults and youth seeking to earn a high school equivalency diploma and gain greater economic mobility. New York’s shift to the TASC is one of the most significant developments in adult education in decades. Since 1942, the GED® has been synonymous with high school equivalency in the U.S. and widely recognized by potential candidates, employers, and postsecondary institutions.
New York State’s Education Department viewed this change as necessary after new sweeping national changes to the current GED® test were announced in 2011. In that year, the GED®Testing Service entered into a partnership with Pearson, the world's largest for-profit testing company, to create a new GED® delivered electronically and aligned with college and career readiness standards. Many in the adult education field viewed the substantive “refresh” as a step in the right direction and recognition of the fact that today’s workers need higher level skills to compete for jobs in a quickly changing economy. However, a number of states and advocates expressed significant concerns that the new cost of the test ($120 plus additional fees for retaking any sections) would pose a barrier to access for the millions of individuals in the U.S. without a high school diploma who are predominately low-income.
But New York had a special problem: state law prohibits charging fees for high school equivalency exams. Currently the state covers GED® testing fees for students, but if the state couldn’t afford to pick up the additional cost of the new test, students would be left un-served. The state’s Education Department estimated that, if it continued to offer the GED® as the primary test, the choice would be either to serve far fewer students or appropriate nearly double the funds that they currently spend on the GED®. Nearly 30,000 New York youth and adults passed the GED® in 2011 (about 450,000 students in the U.S complete annually). According to a statement by the New York State Board of Regents Chancellor, “we can’t let price deny anyone the opportunity for success.” In fact, most states strive to keep the test affordable for students to boost educational attainment and economic growth. In a 2012 survey, fourteen states said they used state funding to keep the GED® affordable to students, and most states that charged a flat fee reported charging less than $75.
The role of the GED® may be changing—rapidly—as states strain to provide the same level of adult education services with smaller and smaller budgets each year. The combination of flat federal funding and across-the-board sequestration, which is estimated to cut nearly $30 million from federal adult education funds, accelerates these state budget troubles. While New York is the first to formally switch to a new test, many states (including New York) are also exploring adopting new high school equivalency options altogether, some of which base diplomas in part on skills attained through work and life experiences as well as through college courses. Wisconsin, Washington, and Minnesota stand out as leaders in this policy space; these efforts are explored in detail in a .
New York’s announcement last week was the first, but it’s unlikely to be the last. However, as states, programs, and policymakers prepare for the new GED® in 2014 and explore alternatives, the primary consideration should be to maintain access for the nearly 30 million Americans without a high school diploma or its equivalent and ensure that these alternatives support a continued focus on preparation for college and career success, now essential ingredients to economic advancement in the U.S.