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In Focus

Jul 28, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Immigrant Youth, DACA’s Future Under Immediate Threat

By Duy Pham and Wendy Cervantes

On July 20, 2017, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017, which would enable “Dreamers”—immigrant youth who entered the U.S. as children—to earn their citizenship. One week later, the House version of the bill was introduced by Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). The new bill is more progressive than previous iterations and reflects the full diversity of the undocumented youth population. An estimated 1.8 million Dreamers would be immediately eligible for conditional permanent resident status under the bill’s requirements.

While the Dream Act provides a path forward, the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remains under threat. If DACA is discontinued, over 800,000 beneficiaries—many of them students—would be placed in peril.  Moreover, the move would severely undermine our shared national interest.  

For over five years, DACA has significantly changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, providing eligible immigrants a reprieve from deportation and a two-year work permit. According to a 2016 survey, 46 percent of DACA beneficiaries were currently enrolled in secondary or postsecondary education. Of those students, 92 percent said DACA allowed them to pursue educational opportunities that they previously could not. Despite verbal attacks on undocumented immigrants during the 2016 presidential election, many postsecondary institutions and associations have pledged to support DACA students. K-12 school districts have also stepped up efforts to protect young immigrants. The program’s impact goes beyond beneficiaries to their families and communities. DACA youth bolster the U.S. economy, promote a dynamic workforce, and strengthen our nation’s educational institutions.

Despite broad support for Dreamers, the current Administration has continued to send mixed signals regarding DACA’s future. Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, 9 other state AGs and the Governor of Idaho petitioned the Trump Administration to rescind DACA by September 5, 2017. Specifically, their joint letter asked the Administration to “rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and…not renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future.” If the Administration does not rescind DACA, Paxton has threated to bring the program before the United States District Court. That would require the Trump Administration to defend it in federal court. If the Administration does rescind the program, over 800,000 DACA youth and young adults will eventually lose their status.

Recognizing this threat against immigrant youth, attorneys general from 19 other states and the District of Columbia are urging the Administration to maintain and defend DACA and to continue to support Dreamers. In addition, 42 Democratic Senators have separately called for the President to keep DACA in place. Other bills have also been introduced in Congress that would provide a path to citizenship to DACA beneficiaries and other undocumented youth, including the American Hope Act, introduced by Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and the Recognizing America’s Children Act, introduced by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). With so much on the line, the time to act is now.

The Dream Act has given Congress an opportunity to provide Dreamers a permanent solution, free from harmful enforcement provisions. However, it’s also critical that the Trump Administration stand up for the future of our nation’s immigrant youth and keep DACA in place until Congress passes a long-term solution. Ending DACA would be a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of young people who consider this country home. It would also be disastrous for the educational institutions that serve DACA students. 

Jul 12, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Advancing Our Goals to Reduce Poverty by Supporting Pell Grants: A Primer for Non-Postsecondary Education Advocates

By Lauren Walizer

For years, Pell Grants have been the foundation of financial aid for low-income students seeking postsecondary education. These grants are among the many anti-poverty efforts that have struggled as Congress has slashed funding for federal programs, particularly those included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-Ed) budget allocation. To make matters worse, President Trump proposes even deeper and more unacceptable cuts to important programs for low-income people in his fiscal year 2018 budget.

This week, Congress begins the process of making funding decisions for fiscal year 2018. Before final determinations are made, advocates and others who are concerned about addressing poverty would benefit from developing a fuller understanding of the Pell Grant program and the people who benefit from it. For instance, of the 11.6 million jobs created nationwide since the Great Recession, 11.5 million have gone to people with more than a high school diploma. Postsecondary education is critical for helping people increase their earning potential and promoting long-term success in quality employment, and Pell Grants are essential for helping low-income students afford that education. However, the average Pell Grant award has barely increased since 1975, and the maximum award has actually decreased (in inflation-adjusted dollars). Moreover, Pell faces ongoing threats to both student eligibility and program funding.

Our latest paper, Reprioritizing Our Investment in Pell Grants to Further Reduce Poverty, explains who these students are, the threats the program faces, and how changes to Pell funding could improve the stability of the program and the overall Labor-HHS-Ed allocation. This paper is intended as a primer for those who are unfamiliar with postsecondary education issues so they can strengthen the chorus of voices in support of this program.

Read the paper here

Jun 30, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Reconnecting Justice in the States: Education and Training Pathways from Incarceration to Reentry

By Wayne Taliaferro

A new brief from CLASP examines how California is aligning education and training opportunities for people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. This is the first brief in our series “Reconnecting Justice in the States,” which will explore coordinated justice, education, and workforce policy and practice at the state level.  It is part of CLASP’s continued commitment to leverage criminal justice reform to expand economic opportunity and help achieve racial equity.

The majority (2 million) of incarcerated people are serving their sentences in state prisons and local jails, making states and local jurisdictions ground zero for criminal justice reform. Additionally, 650,000 people are released from prisons and jails each year. These individuals experience systemic, legally embedded discrimination that prevents economic mobility and increases the chances of recidivism. Currently, three-quarters of people leaving prison reoffend within five years. However, correctional education reduces people’s likelihood to reoffend by 43 percent as well as increases their likelihood to find a job by 13 percent. Combined with comprehensive policies that support reentry, education and training can serve as a strong pathway to economic security.

Leveraging the power of federal, state, and local policies is essential to realize systemic reform. June marked the one-year anniversary of the Second Chance Pell Pilot program as well as the introduction of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives. These federal levers have tremendous potential, but they are far more effective when coupled with state reforms. States should use the opportunity provided by federal funding streams to innovate and build sustainable reform strategies.

Click here to read the first brief.

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