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Education Programs Would Be Spared Under Trump Administration's Green Card Proposal

A Trump administration proposal that would deny green cards or visas to many immigrants who legally use public benefits would not penalize families who use several programs—such as Head Start, the federal school lunch program, and services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—that support children's education.

While the proposal would not strip student eligibility tied to elementary and secondary public education and Head Start, an early-childhood program, the plan could still affect the children and their families. The federal government estimates the plan would affect about 380,000 people annually, restricting their ability to use housing vouchers, Medicaid, food stamps, and other forms of public support.

Nationally, there are an estimated 18 million children who live with immigrant parents. At least 5 million of them have at least one parent who is undocumented, according to an October 2017 report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

That report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, examines the disparities in opportunities for children of immigrants and explores the toll the threat of losing their parents to deportation or detention can take on those children and their education.

Department of Homeland Security officials, who announced the proposal Saturday, said their plan would save federal taxpayers $2.7 billion annually by deterring immigrants from applying for benefits they would otherwise be qualified for. The proposed rules are slated to take effect after a 60-day public review and comment period.

In some cases, people who are lawful, permanent residents and who have received benefits could be subject to the new rule if they leave the country and try to return, federal officials said.

"Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in statement, adding that the proposal is designed to "promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers."

The administration's proposal is in keeping with President Donald Trump's campaign promises to pursue tougher immigration policies.

The plan will "persecute and demonize immigrants by punishing them for completely lawful decisions to access available safety-net support for essential family survival and preservation," Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a statement.

Related Reading

Immigrant Students Are 'Being Rocked in Really Profound Ways'

Kids Count: Immigrants and Their Children Face Challenges on Path to Opportunity

How Should Schools Respond to the Concerns of Undocumented Families?

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