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New federal immigrant integration bill includes NSC-recommended workforce and education components

Legislation introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives would significantly increase federal investment in immigrant integration. Key elements of the bill, known as the New Deal for New Americans, reflect recommendations made by National Skills Coalition.

The legislation was introduced by Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL).

Unlike the majority of federal legislation related to immigrants, which typically focuses on immigration policy such as how many individuals to admit to the U.S. and which types of visas to make available, the new bill is instead focused on the integration of immigrant newcomers into American communities. It reflects significant advances made at the state and local level in the field of immigrant integration over the past decade.

This bold, ambitious proposal has already been endorsed by more than 100 immigrant advocacy organizations and other stakeholders. Efforts are now underway to add additional Congressional co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. Use our action tool to ask your Congressional representative to sign on.

See below for more details about this vital legislation, and watch for additional updates from NSC in the coming months.

New investment in English, proven job training approaches 

The legislation reflects an increased Congressional understanding of the important role that adult education and workforce development policy play in ensuring that immigrant workers can contribute their full talents and abilities, and fill in-demand positions with American businesses. As documented by NSC in a range of publications, immigrants represent 1 in 6 American workers at all levels of the labor market, including in key middle-skill jobs that form the backbone of our economy.

Among the bill’s core elements are several recommendations put forth by National Skills Coalition. In particular, the legislation would:

  • Establish a new $100 million Workforce Development and Prosperity discretionary grant program, to be administered by the US Department of Education, office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Programs funded under these grants would be implementing Integrated Education and Training approaches as recommended in NSC’s 2016 policy toolkit and our 2019 Roadmap for Racial Equity. Entities eligible for these grants would include state and local government, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations, including community-based organizations. Grantees would need to provide a 25% match in non-Federal funding or in-kind support.
  • Establish a new $100 million English as a Gateway to Integration discretionary grant program. Grantees would engage in a range of activities, including preparing individuals to receive a high school diploma or equivalent, enter postsecondary education, improve their digital literacy skills and civic knowledge, and prepare for and secure employment. NSC called for similar investments in our 2013 recommendations on immigration reform legislation. Similar to the workforce grants, these would be awarded by OCTAE. Eligible entities would be the same as those indicated above, and there would be a similar 25% match requirement in non-Federal funds or in-kind support. Unlike the workforce grants, eligibility would be restricted to entities located in either one of the ten states with highest rate of foreign-born residents, or a state that has experienced a large increase in the population of immigrants during the past ten years.
  • Create a federal Office of New Americans located in the White House. NSC called for this office in our 2013 recommendations. Staffing for the office would include a Deputy Director for Workforce and Economy, an important indicator of the value placed on skills policy issues by Congress.
  • Establish a Federal Initiative on New Americans that would bring together cabinet-level officials from a wide range of federal agencies. Among the issue areas to be tackled by this group would be English language learning, adult education and workforce training, postsecondary education, occupational licensure, and economic development. In 2015, NSC provided input to the White House Task Force on New Americans, a similar cross-agency group convened by the Obama administration.


Other aspects of the New Deal for New Americans legislation focus on a pilot program to promote integration at the state and local level through New Immigrant Councils; legal services; the lessening of barriers to US citizenship; refugee resettlement; and voting rights.

Moving from a hands-off to a hands-on federal approach

Because US immigration policy has historically focused on immigrant admissions, the federal government has had a relatively hands-off approach to how best to incorporate immigrants into the American fabric after they arrive. Almost no federal funding is specifically dedicated to immigrant services. The primary exception is refugee resettlement, which receives modest support through the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. However, refugees comprise a very small portion (between 2-7%) of new arrivals to the U.S. each year.

Federal support is also provided indirectly to immigrants via the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title II. Approximately 600,000 of the 1.5 million adults served under Title II are enrolled in English language classes.

The new bill represents a welcome sea change in how federal legislators are thinking and talking about immigration. Numerous NSC member organizations and allies have helped bring about this shift, including the state immigrant-rights coalitions that comprise the National Partnership for New Americans, such as the MIRA Coalition. NSC helped inform the development of NPNA’s New American Dreams policy platform, which in turn informed the new federal legislation.

 

Posted In: Immigration
New fact sheets will help education and skills advocates prepare for immigration “public charge” rule

National Skills Coalition is releasing two new fact sheets to assist adult education, community college, and other skills advocates in preparing for the imminent implementation of the immigration “public charge” rule. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently finalized this rule, which will make it significantly harder for millions of immigrants who are here legally to stay in the country.

Under the rule, US officials will deny green cards to individuals who are deemed likely to be dependent on the government for support. Officials will weigh a long list of positive and negative factors via a totality of circumstances test to make this determination. These include an immigrant’s age, income, English skills, educational credentials, and use of certain public benefits, among other factors.

In addition, a narrower version of the test, focusing just on public benefits usage, will be applied to non-immigrants who are living in the U.S. and seeking to extend or change their visa type (e.g. from a student visa to an employment visa).

The rule was due to take effect on October 15, 2019, although a New York federal judge has put the rule on hold.

NSC opposed this rule, which hurts our nation's efforts to build a skilled workforce. (See our public comment against the rule from December 2018.) With record low unemployment, businesses are struggling to fill open positions, particularly for middle-skill jobs. Immigrants, who account for one in six U.S. workers, are essential to closing this skill gap. But the rule will undercut immigrants’ ability to access training for middle-skill jobs. The rule will also create substantial additional burdens on adult education and workforce training providers trying to help their participants comply with its provisions.  

The bottom line for skills advocates

These are the key points that skills advocates should be aware of regarding the public charge rule:

  • Participating in education and workforce programs will NOT count against immigrants in the public charge test. Individuals should feel free to continue participating in adult education, higher education, and other workforce training programs. Participating in programs funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) or receiving Pell Grants will NOT be counted against immigrants, and can actually improve their ‘totality of circumstances’ by improving their education and skills.

  • Education and workforce programs may nevertheless see a drop in enrollment due to a chilling effect. Even before the final public charge rule was announced, many types of programs serving immigrants had already seen a drop in participation due to confusion and fear. This occurred despite the fact that participating in education and training programs does not count against immigrants in the public charge test, and despite the fact that many individuals (such as refugees) are exempt from the public charge test altogether. Given the high levels of media coverage and the complexity of the new rule, it is anticipated that this chilling effect will continue.
 
  • The new rule creates difficult choices for adult learners and jobseekersWhile education and training programs themselves are not included in the list of public benefits that count against immigrant applicants, many participants in training programs depend on other benefits that are counted against them -- such as SNAP or Medicaid -- to be able to persist and complete their education. As a result, adult learners and jobseekers are now faced with the difficult decision of whether to dis-enroll from health and nutrition programs and jeopardize their ability to complete their training, or to stay enrolled in the programs and potentially jeopardize their immigration status.
 
  • Education and workforce providers will face numerous new requests for enrollment documents, transcripts, and other proof of participation. As part of the new public charge rule, immigrants who are applying for green cards are now required to submit a new federal form, the I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. (See form and instructions.) This document requires applicants to submit transcripts and other documents demonstrating their educational attainment, occupational skills and credentials, and English proficiency. Organizations will begin receiving requests for these documents from their current and past students and participants starting immediately. Organizations that do not typically issue such documents will be asked for a letter to that effect.
 
  • End of “bright line” standard will greatly increase demands on service providers. The new rule removes a clear, bright-line standard for when an immigrant may be considered a public charge, and replaces it with a highly complex, multi-faceted and subjective test. This increased complexity will make it difficult for education and workforce providers to provide straightforward guidance to frontline staff about how to advise participants on whether using a public benefit may jeopardize their immigration status. Higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state and local agencies will also face the challenge of updating enrollment forms, software programs, and other documentation that currently provides blanket reassurance to participants that enrolling in publicly funded programs will not jeopardize their immigration status, and substituting a much more nuanced and complicated disclaimer. 
 
  • Education and workforce providers will need to provide training for their staff members on how to respond to inquiries about public charge issues. Staff members should not attempt to provide legal advice to immigrants, but should be prepared to answer general inquiries, to reassure immigrants about their continued ability to participate in education and workforce programs, and to refer individuals to reputable legal services providers for additional guidance.
 

It is important to note that the public charge test pertains to benefits received by individuals. Funds that are received by institutions – such as community colleges that blend TANF or SNAP dollars with other funds to support an educational program – are not counted against immigrant participants in those programs, unless those individuals have filed an individual application for public benefits.

National Skills Coalition urges skills advocates to read and share our new fact sheets on the public charge, designed for adult educators and higher education advocates.

To learn more about the rule, read NSC's analysis below. NSC’s analysis of this complex, 837-page regulation focuses specifically on issues relevant to skills advocates. For broader analysis, we recommend materials from the National Immigration Law Center and its partners in the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign.

What is the public charge?

Public charge is the standard by which individuals can be denied lawful permanent resident (green card) status or otherwise forbidden from extending or changing their visas if they are determined likely to be dependent on the government for support. The public charge is a totality of circumstances test, in which federal officials weigh the positive and negative factors in an individual immigrant’s application and determine whether they are at risk of becoming a public charge. Before this new rule was enacted, the old public charge policy had been in place for decades. It was a much narrower rule with a clear, bright-line standard that was easier for immigrants and advocates to comprehend and navigate.

The public-charge test is a forward-looking test that will be applied to immigrant applicants beginning on October 15, 2019 if it is not enjoined by the courts. Use of public benefits before that date will not be counted against immigrants unless it is one of the two types of benefits that had been included in the longstanding public charge definition in effect since 1999 (cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at public expense).

Understanding the major changes under this new rule

DHS has made significant changes to the previous public charge policy. Among the key changes:

1. More people are now subject to the public charge test. Previously, individuals were subject to the public charge determination when applying for lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status, or when existing green card holders were being readmitted to the US after more than six months outside the country. Under the new rule, people will continue to be subject to the public charge test in those cases. In addition, individuals living in the United States will face a narrower test -- focusing just on public benefits usage -- when they apply for, extend, or change the category of any one of a long list of non-immigrant visas. This also means that the same person might be subject to the public charge test on multiple occasions, as it is very common for individuals to extend or change their status repeatedly. For example, someone might arrive in the US on a student visa, then later change to an employment visa, and eventually become a permanent resident.

2. The factors that are considered in the totality of circumstances assessment have been further codified. While the general list of factors to be considered in the totality of circumstances test was already codified in statute, the final public charge rule has now fleshed out those with substantially more detailed considerations, including a requirement that immigrants provide their credit history and credit score (if they are available).

Factors now include:

  • Age (between 18 and 61 is a positive factor; below age 18 or age 62 and over is a negative factor)
  • Health (e.g., if the individual has a health condition that could require extensive treatment in the future, or that could affect their ability to work, attend school, or care for themselves, and if they do not have access to private health insurance or other resources to pay for treatment, it will be weighed as heavily negative)
  • Family status (i.e., household size)
  • Income, assets, and financial status (having income below 125 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines is a negative factor; income above 250 percent of FPG is a heavily weighted positive factor; other considerations include the immigrant applicant’s assets and liability; credit history and credit score; whether they have applied for or received a public benefit; received a fee waiver when applying for an immigration document; and more)
  • Education and skills (considerations include recent history of employment; credential attainment at HS diploma or higher level; occupational licensure; English skills; and other language skills)
  • Affidavit of support from a person who is sponsoring the immigrant (if required to be filed)
 

3. More kinds of benefits are now counted as negative factors in the public charge test. Under previous policy, only two types of public benefits usage counted against immigrants: receiving cash assistance or receiving long-term institutional care at public expense. DHS has significantly expanded that list, which now includes:

  • Any Federal, State, Local or Tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, including TANF, SSI and general assistance programs
  • Medicaid (with exceptions including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, pregnant women and 60 days of post-partum services)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”)
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance
 

Non-cash benefits that are wholly state-funded are not considered in the public charge test.

(Benefits received by family members of the immigrant applicant do not count. However, the size of an immigrant’s household – including people who may not be physically living with but are financially dependent on the immigrant – will still influence many of the calculations for the public charge test.)

4. The process of calculating public benefits usage is now more complicated. Under the new rules, receiving any of the above-listed public benefits for more than 12 months in any 36-month period is a heavily negative factor. If an individual is receiving two benefits in a given month, that will count as two months for the purposes of the public charge calculation.

5. The ripple effect of the new rule will be felt far beyond the immigrants who are personally subject to the public charge test. For example, an individual already living in the US who is applying for a green card may have a US citizen spouse; if federal officials deny the green card application because the applicant is at risk of becoming a public charge, the couple may be faced with a difficult decision about whether they can continue their lives together in the United States, or must move abroad or be separated. 

Similarly, immigrants who are themselves already green-card holders or US citizens may be hoping to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the US in the future. These individuals will likely have questions about how the public charge rule will affect their future plans; they should be referred to a reputable legal services provider for advice.

6. A new “public charge bond” process is being implemented to allow individuals to override their negative public charge determination. DHS has established a complex new process to allow individuals who are at risk of becoming a public charge to purchase a bond that enables them to be admitted to the United States, but only at the discretion of the DHS official processing their application. The minimum cost of the bond will be $8,100 plus fees; the immigrant will forfeit the entire value of the bond if they use public benefits in the future. Much remains unknown about the bond process, but its existence adds an additional layer of financial pressure for immigrant applicants.

Benefits that do NOT count against immigrants

Only the benefits specified in the rule will count against immigrants in the new public charge test. Thus, other benefits will NOT count. These other benefits include:

  • Social Security retirement benefits
  • Medicare benefits
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Non-cash benefits that provide education, child development, and employment and job training (even if funded by TANF)
  • Education-related benefits
  • Any exclusively local, state, or tribal public benefit that is not cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Benefits used by persons other than the applicant, including benefits used by their children


Individuals exempt from the public charge test

Some categories of immigrants are not subject to the public charge test.

  • Active duty and reserve US military service members and their spouses and unmarried minor children
  • Refugees, people who have been granted asylum, individuals receiving U visas for crime victims or T visas for trafficking victims
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners
  • Select other categories of vulnerable individuals
  • Family members of the immigrant applicant (unless and until they make their own applications for green-card status, visa extensions, or changes of status)
 

In addition, individuals are not subject to a public charge test when they apply for US citizenship.

Posted In: Immigration

House passes Dream and Promise Act in bipartisan vote

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
House passes Dream and Promise Act in bipartisan vote

New legislation affirms the importance of middle-skill pathways and immigrant workforce to our economy

The House of Representatives yesterday voted 237-187 to pass H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019. Those voting for the bill included 230 Democrats and seven Republicans. It was the first time that the full House had voted on a bill to address the status of immigrant Dreamers since 2010. The bill was supported by an exceptionally broad array of organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce, which designated it a key vote.

Lead sponsors on the bill were Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). The legislation affirms the crucial role immigrant workers play in the US economy -- where they represent 1 in 6 American workers overall -- and the vital importance of middle-skill jobs.

The Dream and Promise Act addresses barriers faced by a key subset of approximately 2.7 million immigrants. It provides a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, and ensures a stable future for adult immigrants who have been living and working under Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Legislation Reflects Voters’ Priorities

The legislation reflects National Skills Coalition’s longstanding advocacy for a middle-skills pathway for immigrant Dreamers and sends an important message: the American economy depends on working people and immigrants with middle-skill credentials, not just those with college degrees.

Recent polling shows that the American public strongly values having multiple pathways to good jobs.  Voters across the political spectrum voice overwhelming support for investments in skills, with more than 80 percent endorsing policies that allow workers to pursue technical training, apprenticeships, shorter-term credentials, and other skill-building opportunities.

The role of middle-skill credentials in the Dream Act

In order for immigrant Dreamers to attain permanent legal status under this bill, they would need to meet a host of requirements in different areas. One option for meeting the bill’s educational requirements is to earn a degree from a postsecondary institution (including vocational and proprietary schools), or complete 2 years towards a bachelor’s degree, or earn a certificate or credential from an area postsecondary CTE school.

Read more about the bill’s requirements in our March 26 blog post on the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act. (Please note that some provisions originally proposed in the bill, such as the repeal of a 1996 provision regarding states' ability to provide in-state tuition to Dreamers, were not included in the final legislation.)

Next steps in Congress: What advocates can do

While HR 6 has passed the House, its prospects in the Senate are much more uncertain, and President Trump has already threatened to veto it.

However, a Dreamer bill in the Senate does have bipartisan support, with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) serving as lead sponsors of the Dream Act of 2019, S. 874. While the bill is somewhat different from the House bill, it does include NSC’s recommended middle-skills pathway to citizenship.

Skills advocates should urge their Senators to take action on this legislation. NSC resources available for advocacy include our 50-state fact sheets about the demand for middle skill workers in each state.

Posted In: Immigration

What immigrant advocates need to know about the new Perkins Act

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
What immigrant advocates need to know about the new Perkins Act

This is a joint blog post by members of the Immigration and Federal Skills Policy workgroup, a set of national organizations that meet monthly in Washington, DC, to address workforce development and adult education policy issues pertaining to immigrants. National Skills Coalition, National Immigration Forum, Migration Policy Institute and the National Immigration Law Center are co-conveners of the workgroup.

Skills advocates have an upcoming opportunity to ensure that their states’ postsecondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are responsive to immigrant constituents. 

Last year, Congress reauthorized landmark legislation governing CTE programs. The 2018 law is called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, and is colloquially known as Perkins V.

As states begin to gear up for the planning process required by the new law, skills advocates have a chance to speak up for effective policies and strategies that can serve immigrant adults and other CTE learners. These strategies can be incorporated into the Perkins state plans that are required to be submitted to the federal government in spring 2020.

(Want to know how your state can combine its Perkins and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act planning processes? Check out this recent guide from National Skills Coalition and Advance CTE.)

Key points to keep in mind for advocacy

  • Perkins is not just about high school students. Fully 40 percent of Perkins funding nationwide supports postsecondary programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average age of CTE students in postsecondary programs is 26.3 years old.* State Perkins plans should specifically describe on-ramps for adult learners into CTE programs, to make clear that not all postsecondary participants would be coming directly from high school. Having well-designed on-ramps is especially important for immigrants, who are often working adults eager to access upskilling opportunities. States can capitalize on the fact that the new Perkins law adopts the definition of career pathways already used by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to help construct CTE pathways that provide multiple entry and exit points for individuals.

  • People of color are especially likely to be served by Perkins-funded programs. Approximately 13.2 percent of postsecondary CTE students are African American and 21.2 percent are Hispanic. These numbers are higher than their representation in the overall US adult population (12.3 percent African American and 18.1 percent Hispanic). While the reasons behind this over-representation are complex, the bottom line is that Perkins-funded programs should be thinking specifically about how to serve students of color, including those who are immigrants. (The nonprofit National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity has a wealth of resources to assist in this process.)

  • Perkins funding goes to institutions rather than individuals. Unlike WIOA, Perkins funding is not linked to individual jobseekers in the form of a training voucher or a seat in an English language class. Rather, Perkins serves individuals, including immigrants, through its support of the institutions they attend. While Perkins-funded programs are required to collect some data on the students they serve, the “special populations” category does not include nativity. Therefore, there is no direct measure of how many immigrants are served by Perkins-funded programs. However, English learners (ELs) are included in special populations reporting, and about 87 percent of all ELs nationwide are immigrants.

  • Creative use of Perkins funding can help improve opportunities for immigrants and US-born students alike.  Some localities have used even modest amounts of Perkins funding to improve program offerings and services to immigrants and English learners. Often, these efforts can support US-born students at the same time. For example:

    • The Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, blends Perkins and WIOA resources to support innovative Integrated Education and Training programs in seven occupations. Given the local community’s demographics, the program serves primarily Latino participants, including immigrants and English learners.
    • Westchester Community College in New York has used Perkins funding to develop curriculum for a noncredit healthcare program, which is part of the college’s career pathway to several credit-bearing healthcare programs. Given the college’s location in the suburban New York City area, these programs serve a diverse range of students, including immigrants as well as those born in the United States.
    • Miami Dade College in Florida has used Perkins funding to support a navigator position – a type of advisor who can help immigrant adults who come to the US with a credential from their home country, and want to brush up on their skills in a community college program. Participants come from a wide range of backgrounds, including Cuban and Haitian immigrants among many others.

  • Perkins funding can also help skilled immigrants strengthen the CTE teacher workforce. The CTE field is experiencing dramatic shortages of teachers in almost all subjects, even as the demand for programs is expanding and student populations become more diverse. The Perkins Act requires states to indicate in their plans how local districts and other partners will recruit and prepare teachers and other CTE staff, including equipping them to work with special populations. Immigrants who have degrees and experience from abroad are an untapped resource that is uniquely well-equipped to help states meet the demand for CTE teachers with relevant industry experience and the capacity to work with a diverse range of learners. In addition, Perkins does provide a potential way to support such non-traditional teacher pipelines: funding for creative local teacher training initiatives through its Innovation and Modernization grant program.
 

Need a Perkins Act 101?

If you are new to the CTE world, it may be helpful to get a more general overview of how this legislation works. Perkins funds CTE services, previously known as vocational education. CTE programs exist at the secondary (high school) and postsecondary (typically community college) level.

A total of $1.2 billion in Perkins funding is distributed by the US Department of Education each year. Unlike WIOA and other workforce funding, this money does not fund specific“slots” for individual students. Rather, it goes to school districts, higher education institutions, and other entities to support costs such as laboratories and classroom equipment, training materials, and curriculum development.

Some Perkins-funded classes are part of “programs of study” that include up to two years of study at the high school level followed by up to two years of postsecondary study.

Get data about your state’s Perkins-funded programs from the Perkins Data Explorer. Find background information on CTE from National Skills Coalition, Advance CTE, and ACTE.

 

*Data analysis courtesy of CLASP.


Posted In: Immigration, Career and Technical Education
Dream and Promise Act sends clear message: middle skills are a pathway to citizenship

New legislation recognizes importance of middle-skill pathways and immigrant workforce to our growing economy

Legislation recently introduced in Congress marks a significant step toward recognizing the role that immigrant workers play in the US economy, and the vital importance of middle-skill jobs. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would provide a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, and ensure a stable future for adult immigrants who have been living and working under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The bill would also allow more immigrants to access federal student financial aid.

The new bill reflects National Skills Coalition’s longstanding advocacy for a middle-skills pathway for immigrant Dreamers and sends an important message: the American economy depends on working people and immigrants with middle-skill credentials, not just those with college degrees. This provision has broad-based support; in February, nearly 500 NSC members representing education, workforce, business, and other stakeholders came to Washington to advocate for the proposal in Congress as part of our Skills for Good Jobs 2019 agenda.

The broader American public also embraces the idea of having a variety of pathways to good jobs: A recent NSC poll shows overwhelming support for investments in skills, with more than 80 percent of voters endorsing policies that allow workers to pursue technical training, apprenticeships, shorter-term credentials, and other skill-building opportunities.

Because immigrants comprise approximately 1 in 6 American workers, or roughly 28 million adults in the US labor force, it is important for federal skills policies to address their specific assets and barriers. The Dream and Promise Act would address barriers faced by a key subset of immigrant workers, totaling an estimated 2.7 million people.

More about the legislation

The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 was announced at a March 12 press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) along with lead sponsors Representatives Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). More than 200 Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill.

The legislation, formally known as H.R. 6, would provide a way for two groups of immigrants to obtain permanent legal status and eventual US citizenship: Those who currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers. Neither group is generally eligible for permanent status under current immigration laws, unless they meet existing criteria for adjustment of status. There are currently 2.3 million Dreamers in the U.S. (which includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients) and 300,000 people with TPS status.

How do middle skill credentials fit into the bill?

The requirements for Dreamers to attain permanent legal status under this bill are different from the requirements for TPS holders, primarily because the TPS holders are more likely to be adults who have been in the labor force for more than a decade.

Under the proposed legislation, Dreamers would need to meet a host of requirements at each stage of this process:

  • Step 1: Apply for an initial conditional permanent resident status. Dreamers would need to show that they have earned a high school diploma or equivalent; or attained a recognized postsecondary credential as defined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA); or be currently enrolled in an education program that will allow them to earn a high school diploma or equivalent, certificate or credential from an area career and technical education (CTE) secondary school, or a recognized postsecondary credential.
  • Step 2: Apply for removal of the “conditional” part of their status to move into full legal permanent resident (LPR) status. Dreamers would need to demonstrate that they had achieved one of three milestones related to educational attainment, work experience, or military service. For the educational attainment track, Dreamers would need to show that they had earned a degree from a postsecondary institution (including vocational and proprietary schools), or completed 2 years towards a bachelor’s degree, or earned a certificate or credential from an area postsecondary CTE school.
  • Step 3: Follow already-established legal pathways to adjust from LPR status to full US citizenship.

As noted above, the middle skills pathway included in Step 2 reflects a longstanding NSC policy recommendation. Earlier versions of the DREAM Act, which has been introduced in Congress repeatedly over the past two decades, also included the pathway.

How would the bill support upskilling?

The legislation would allow Dreamers with conditional permanent resident status to become eligible for federal student financial aid. Currently, a person must have full LPR status in order to access such aid. In addition, the bill would repeal a 1996 provision that punishes states for allowing undocumented individuals to pay in-state tuition rates. More than 20 states have implemented such “tuition equity” policies.

Finally, the legislation would authorize US Citizenship and Immigration Services to implement a competitive grant program for nonprofits that can aid individuals in meeting the requirements of the bill. Organizations would be permitted to use funding for English language classes, preparation for high school equivalency exams, and other purposes. The legislation does not specify a dollar amount for these grants, but would authorize funding for a 10-year period following passage of the legislation.

Next steps in Congress: What advocates can do

The newly introduced legislation is expected to proceed through regular order in Congress. That means that the committee overseeing the bill – the House Judiciary Committee – will schedule a markup later this spring.

It is anticipated that the full House of Representatives will vote on the bill later this year, though its prospects in the Senate are very uncertain. Skills advocates can use this time to educate their Members of Congress about the demand for middle skill workers in each state and the role that Dreamers and TPS holders can play in meeting that demand.

Posted In: Immigration, Career and Technical Education
Newly proposed immigration

NSC's template comments are now available. Please modify this template with information specific to your organization and submit on Regulations.gov by December 10. Also send a copy of your comments to amandabs@nationalskillscoalition.org so we can track them!

______________

This week, the US Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule that would make it significantly harder for many immigrants who are here legally to stay in the country. Under this new "public charge" rule, immigration officials could deny green cards or visa changes for individuals who get any of a number of public benefits or are deemed likely to receive benefits in the future. 

NSC opposes this rule, which would hurt our nation's efforts to build a skilled workforce. With record low unemployment, businesses are struggling to fill open positions, particularly for middle-skill jobs. Immigrants, who account for one in six U.S. workers, are essential to closing this skill gap. But the proposed rule would undercut immigrants’ ability to access training for middle-skill jobs.

Although the new rule does not include education and workforce programs in the list of public benefits, it's expected to have a chilling effect as immigrants withdraw from a wide array of publicly funded programs, from community college to adult education, out of confusion and fear. In addition, immigrants in job training programs who rely on key public benefits like SNAP or Medicaid will have to choose between dropping out of benefits programs that provide crucially needed support, or staying in and potentially jeopardizing their immigration status. The new rule would also create challenges for community colleges and other adult education and workforce development providers that would have to quickly build capacity to accurately advise immigrants about this complicated new rule. 

To learn more about the proposed rule, read NSC's analysis below and register for our upcoming October 24 webinar. NSC will also provide template comments next week that organizations may use as a basis for submitting their own comments by December 10, 2018.

NSC’s analysis of this complex, 450-page proposal focuses specifically on issues relevant to skills advocates. For broader analysis, we recommend materials from the National Immigration Law Center and its partners in the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign.

What is the public charge?

Public charge is the standard by which individuals can be denied permanent resident (green card) status or otherwise forbidden from extending or changing their visas if they are determined to be dependent on the government for support, or likely to be dependent in the future. The public charge is a totality of circumstances test, in which federal officials weigh the positive and negative factors in an individual immigrant’s application and determine whether they are at risk of becoming a public charge. The current public charge policy has been in place for decades, and was most recently affirmed in 1999 policy guidance from the federal government.

Relatively few immigrants are currently eligible for cash assistance or related public benefits, in part due to the 1996 welfare-reform law. But the new proposal would also require federal officials to predict whether the immigrant might receive benefits in the future. Given that immigrants who are granted green cards are then eligible to apply for US citizenship, and that US citizens are eligible for a wide range of public benefits, the rule would have sweeping implications. Ultimately, the proposed changes would affect millions of legally authorized immigrants and prospective immigrants.

Understanding the major changes proposed by the administration

DHS is proposing to make significant changes to the existing public charge policy. Among the key changes:

1. More people would be subject to the public charge test. Right now, individuals are subject to the public charge determination when applying for lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status, or when existing green card holders are being readmitted to the US after more than six months outside the country. DHS is now proposing that people would be subject to the public charge test in those cases, and that individuals face a similar test when they apply for or extend any one of a long list of nonimmigrant visas. This also means that the same person might be subject to the public charge test on several occasions, as it is very common for individuals to extend or change their status repeatedly. For example, someone might arrive in the US on a student visa, then later change to an employment visa, and eventually become a permanent resident.

2. More kinds of benefits would be counted as negative factors in the public charge test. Under current policy, only two types of public benefits usage count against immigrants: receiving cash assistance (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Insurance), or receiving long-term institutional care at public expense. DHS is proposing that this list be significantly expanded to include:

    • Medicaid (with limited exceptions for emergency Medicaid and certain school-based disability services for children)
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Medicare Part D financial assistance
    • Subsidized public housing (federal public housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance)

      DHS is also asking for public comments about whether Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits should be counted as a negative factor. If included, this would consider whether the immigrant applicant had received CHIP him- or herself, not whether their children had done so.

3. The process of calculating public benefits usage would become much more complicated. DHS’s proposal divides the above list into monetizable and non-monetizable benefits – that is, those to which DHS can easily assign a monetary value and those to which it cannot. For any individual immigrant, receiving monetizable benefits that total more than 15 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of one (about $1800) would count as a negative factor in the public charge totality of circumstances test. (This is a substantial change from current guidance, which examines whether a person is receiving cash benefits that form 51 percent or more of their income.)

Similarly, receiving non-monetizable benefits that last for more than 12 out of the preceding 36 months would also count as a negative factor. Additional calculations would apply if an individual was receiving both monetizable and non-monetizable benefits or more than one non-monetizable benefit in a given month.

(Benefits received by family members of the immigrant applicant would not count. However, the size of an immigrant’s household – including people who may not be physically living with but are financially dependent on the immigrant – would still influence many of the calculations for the public charge test.)

4. Factors to be considered in the totality of circumstances assessment would be further codified. While the general list of factors to be considered in the totality of circumstances test is already codified in statute, DHS is proposing to flesh out these factors with substantially more detailed considerations, including a brand-new proposal to consider an immigrant’s credit history and credit score. The proposed considerations would include but not be limited to:

    • Age (between 18 and 61 would be a positive factor; below age 18 or age 62 and over would be a negative factor)
    • Health (a negative factor would be having a health condition that is likely to interfere with the person’s ability to care for him- or herself,  to attend school or work or that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization in the future)
    • Family status (i.e., household size)
    • Assets, resources, and financial status (having income below 125 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines is a negative factor; income above 250 percent of FPG is a heavily weighted positive factor; other considerations include the immigrant applicant’s credit history and credit score; whether they have applied for or received a public benefit; received a fee waiver when applying for an immigration document, and more)
    • Education and skills (considerations include recent history of employment; credential attainment at HS diploma or higher level, occupational licensure, English skills, other language skills)
    • Affidavit of support from a person who is sponsoring the immigrant (if required to be filed)

5. The ripple effect of the new rules would be felt far beyond the immigrants who are personally subject to the public charge test. For example, an individual already living in the US who is applying for a green card may have a US citizen spouse; if federal officials deny the green card application because the applicant is at risk of becoming a public charge, the couple may be faced with a difficult decision about whether they can continue their lives together in the United States, or must move abroad or be separated. 

6. A new “public charge bond” process would be implemented to allow individuals to override their negative public charge determination. DHS is proposing a complex new process to allow individuals who are at risk of becoming a public charge to purchase a bond that will enable them to be admitted to the United States. The minimum cost of the bond would be $10,000 plus fees; the intent would be to provide a mechanism for the US government to be reimbursed if the immigrant goes on to use public benefits in the future. Much remains unknown about the bond process, but its existence would add an additional layer of potential financial pressure for immigrant applicants.

Benefits that would NOT count against immigrants

Under the DHS proposal, some public benefits would not be counted against immigrants in the public charge test. These include:

  • Social Security retirement benefits
  • General Medicare benefits (as opposed to the Part D subsidies described above)
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Non-cash benefits that provide education, child development, and employment and job training
  • Education-related benefits
  • Any exclusively local, state, or tribal public benefit that is not cash assistance for income maintenance, institutionalization for long-term care at government expense, or another public benefit program not specifically listed in the regulation
  • Benefits used by persons other than the applicant, including benefits used by their children


Individuals exempt from the public charge test

Some categories of immigrants are not subject to the public charge test.

  • Active duty and reserve US military service members and their families
  • Refugees, people who have been granted asylum, individuals receiving U visas for crime victims or T visas for trafficking victims
  • Select other categories of vulnerable individuals
  • Family members of the immigrant applicant (unless and until they make their own applications for green-card status, visa extensions, or changes of status)

In addition, individuals are not subject to a public charge test when they apply for US citizenship.

Implications for skills advocates

  1. The biggest concern: A chilling effect far beyond the scope of the rule itself.  The new proposal is expected to have a significant chilling effect on immigrant participation in publicly funded adult education and workforce programs. Even though the public charge proposal does not apply to some categories of immigrants (such as refugees), and even though the proposal does not include education and workforce programs, people are nevertheless expected to withdraw from a wide array of publicly programs out of fear and confusion. There is strong evidence that this chilling effect is already occurring. Given the complexity of the new proposal, skills advocates may find it difficult to give a blanket reassurance to worried adult learners and jobseekers, and may see dips in enrollment, participation, and completion.

  2. New rule will create difficult choices for adult learners and jobseekers. While education and training programs themselves are not included in the list of public benefits that would count against immigrant applicants, many participants in training programs depend on other benefits that would be counted against them -- such as SNAP or Medicaid -- to be able to persist and complete their education. As a result, adult learners and jobseekers will be faced with the difficult decision of whether to dis-enroll from health and nutrition programs and jeopardize their ability to complete their training, or to stay enrolled in the programs and potentially jeopardize their immigration status.

  3. End of “bright line” standard will greatly increase demands on service providers. The new proposal would remove a clear, bright-line standard for when an immigrant may be considered a public charge, and replace it with a highly complex, multi-faceted and subjective test. This increased complexity will make it difficult for education and workforce providers to provide straightforward guidance to frontline staff about how to advise participants on whether using a public benefit may jeopardize their immigration status. Higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state and local agencies will also face the challenge of updating enrollment forms, software programs, and other documentation that currently provides blanket reassurance to participants that enrolling in publicly funded programs will not jeopardize their immigration status, and substituting a much more nuanced and complicated disclaimer. 

  4. Increased confusion about braided funding for workforce and education programs. The public charge test pertains to benefits received by individuals. Funds that are received by institutions – such as community colleges that blend TANF or SNAP dollars with other funds to support an educational program – would not be counted against immigrant participants in those programs. However, the uncertainty created by the new regulations may affect education and workforce program administrators and managers as they seek to clarify the implications of the proposal for their institutions and participants.


National Skills Coalition is extremely concerned about the ripple effects of these proposed changes on education and workforce goals. We urge skills advocates to submit public comments to DHS in advance of the December 10 deadline. Template comments from NSC will be available early next week.  

 

 

Posted In: Immigration
Utah and Idaho explore immigrant career pathways; new fact sheets released

Note: The Idaho and Utah fact sheets linked below are being released in conjunction with Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. See also NSC’s 2016 fact sheet, Adult Education: A Crucial Foundation for Middle-Skill Jobs.

National Skills Coalition Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock recently traveled to Boise, ID, and Salt Lake City, UT for skills policy events with stakeholders in both cities. The focus: How immigrant advocates can collaborate with adult education and workforce officials to ensure that skills policies provide effective career pathways for workers at all skill levels.

Immigrant populations have more than doubled in both Idaho and Utah in recent years, demonstrating the growing role that immigrant workers can play in helping the states respond to local industries’ talent needs. The issue is of particular importance given the very low unemployment rates in both states.

Two new fact sheets were released in conjunction with the events. Both are part of NSC’s ongoing series on immigrants and middle-skill jobs:


Idaho: Connecting the Dots between Refugee Youth and State Postsecondary Goals

Idaho is home to approximately 98,000 immigrants, who comprise almost 6 percent of state residents. The state has recently set a goal for postsecondary attainment, aiming to increase the percentage of Idaho residents ages 25-34 with a college degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2025. Ensuring that state workforce and education policies are inclusive of immigrant and refugee youth will be important in helping the state meet its ambitious attainment goal.

In Boise, Amanda led two workshops hosted by the nonprofit Neighbors United. The first focused on career pathways for refugee and immigrant jobseekers. The second examined education and workforce issues facing refugee and immigrant young adults in particular. Stakeholders at both workshops included state officials, higher education partners, nonprofit service providers, and refugee youth themselves.

Also participating in the event were staff from the nonprofit Global Talent Idaho. The nonprofit’s collaboration with state refugee and labor department officials was spotlighted in NSC’s recent brief At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy: A Roadmap to Smart Policies for State and Local Leaders.

Utah: A Variety of New Efforts to Boost Skills and Credential Attainment

Immigrants and refugees represent approximately 8 percent of Utah’s population, or 252,000 people. Immigrants in the state are dramatically more likely to be of working age: a full 85 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 57 percent of native-born residents. Utah immigrants also have a substantially higher labor force participation rate: 71 percent of adult immigrants are in the labor force, compared to 67 percent of native-born adults.

Utah has also established an aspirational goal for postsecondary attainment: By 2020, the state aims to increase the percentage of Utahns between 25-64 years old with a postsecondary degree to 66 percent. Given the relative youth of the state’s foreign-born population, investing in the skills of immigrants and refugees will be an important element of helping the state reach its goal. (Utah is also one of three states selected to participate in a new Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps, led by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.)

In Salt Lake City, Amanda led two discussions in collaboration with the nonprofit One Refugee. The first focused on policies and programs that support career pathways for young adult refugees and immigrants. The second explored strategies for measuring refugee integration using education and workforce data.

Stakeholders participating in the discussions included state and local workforce officials, nonprofit service providers, and faith community leaders. The events were hosted by OC Tanner, a corporate leader that supports refugee integration through employment. 

Separately, Amanda also met with Utah state legislators to brief them on occupational licensing and career pathway issues for immigrants and refugees in the state. Utah is participating in a national initiative on occupational licensing led by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Council of State Governments.

In addition, both Salt Lake City and Boise, along with partners in Twin Falls, ID, were selected last year to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, and Amanda’s recent trip was conducted as part of the SIIP project.

Posted In: Immigration, Idaho, Utah
How advocates can advance immigrant workforce issues at the state and local level

As Welcoming Week (September 14-23) prepares to kick off, with hundreds of events scheduled around the country, National Skills Coalition is releasing a new report that gives state and local advocates fresh ideas for advancing policies to improve immigrant access to workforce and adult education services. At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy: A Roadmap to Smart Policies for State and Local Leaders focuses on the fast-growing phenomenon of state Offices of New Americans and city Offices of Immigrant Affairs, and their intersection with public workforce and education agencies.

The report gives advocates practical examples of how state and local officials have invested in immigrant workers’ skills through programs and policies to date, and offers policy recommendations for how advocates can further advance immigrant workforce issues in their own communities. The report is relevant both for states and localities that have immigrant affairs offices, and those that do not.

Six states and 30 cities now have immigrant affairs offices, while more than 90 communities have launched “welcoming” initiatives, some of which are housed within municipal government. Skills issues are a notable and growing focus for many of these offices, both in response to constituent requests (e.g., for more English classes) and as a result of the overall direction and agenda set by the governor or mayor when establishing the office. Similarly, workforce issues are also on the radar screen for many local welcoming initiatives.

At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy includes select examples of policies advanced by immigrant affairs offices to support the education and workforce goals of state residents, and provides recommendations for those offices to further expand their efforts.

The report also emphasizes the importance of ensuring that state policymakers capitalize on immigrant affairs offices’ expertise as they design and meet overall workforce goals, such as the postsecondary attainment goals that 40 states have established. (National Skills Coalition previously published 10 state-specific fact sheets on the importance of investing in immigrant skill-building to meet the demand for middle-skill workers and help states meet their credential attainment goals. Links to each are available on the immigration page of NSC’s website.)

Among the recommendations included in the At the Intersection report:

  • For established offices of immigrant affairs: 1) designing formal mechanisms for immigrant-affairs offices to participate in workforce and education policy decision making; 2) exploring how non-skills issues can be a gateway to foster connections with other public agencies; 3) capitalizing on the convening power of public agencies; and more.
  • For newly created offices of immigrant affairs: 1) Consider housing the office within a labor, education, or economic development agency; 2) build inclusion of US-born community members in from the beginning; 3) rather than fighting for a programmatic budget, fight for a seat at the table and ability to be a creative policy entrepreneur; and more.
  • For workforce and education agencies: 1) “Cross-fertilize” business leaders’ input on immigration and skills policy goals; 2) incorporate an immigrant lens into state and local workforce data policy; 3) ensure that immigrant-owned businesses are specifically included in education and workforce policy efforts; and more.


View the complete recommendations and an array of examples from Maryland to Michigan and beyond in the full At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy report.

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education
Michigan releases new materials on determining immigrant eligibility for WIOA Title I services

The Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA) and Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) have collaborated on two new publications intended to support frontline workforce staff in facilitating eligible immigrants’ access to public workforce services.

Both publications focus on how workforce agencies – including local workforce boards, MichiganWorks! American Job Centers, and other stakeholders – should determine immigrant and refugee eligibility for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I services.

Under the WIOA statute, immigrants who are authorized to work legally in the United States are eligible to access Title I services, provided they meet other standard eligibility criteria.

The new Michigan publications include:


Both publications link to the underlying federal legislation, policy guidance, and regulations that dictate WIOA eligibility requirements, as well as the accompanying state guidance from Michigan’s TIA.

Because states are not required to collect data on the nativity of WIOA participants, there is no available information on how many immigrants are currently served under Title I. However, there is data on how many participants have limited English proficiency. National data shows that only 1.5 percent of participants in Title I intensive training services are limited English proficient. In comparison, a full 10 percent of the US workforce has limited English skills.

Michigan is a national leader on immigrant workforce policy issues, with MONA having previously advanced initiatives focusing on innovative adult ESOL, occupational licensing guides, Refugee/Immigrant Navigators, and more. Most recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order transferring authority over much of the state’s refugee resettlement services from its Department of Health and Human Services to MONA.

Michigan was also one of just eight sites selected to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. The new workforce publications were developed as part of that initiative, and MONA and TIA have also collaborated to provide in-person training to state and local workforce staff on use of the new publications. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, aiding in the development of the publications and participating in the training sessions this summer.

Posted In: Immigration, Data and Credentials, Michigan
New WIOA community engagement guide aims to bolster nonprofit input in planning process

Note: A webinar about this new guide will be held on August 23, 2018. The webinar is being co-hosted by the International Rescue Committee, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, and Workforce Matters. Register here.

A newly released publication is encouraging community-based organizations in California to actively participate in their local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) planning process and otherwise engage with their local workforce boards.

California Nonprofits and the Public Workforce System: How CBOs Can Make Their Voices Heard in the WIOA Planning Process is a short, readable guide designed for nonprofit advocates. It is being released in anticipation of the upcoming deadline for the required modifications of WIOA plans, which occurs midway through the plans’ four-year timeframe.

The guide was authored by Erica Bouris of the nonprofit International Rescue Committee, which has offices in 26 US locations, including six in California. It was funded by the Grove Foundation and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. Both foundations are part of the Immigrant Workforce Learning Community, a group co-convened by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees and Workforce Matters.

Sections of the guide include:

  • What is WIOA planning and why does it matter?
  • Workforce system fundamentals: Understanding the local system and services
  • Who makes decisions about WIOA investments and services locally? 
  • How much funding is at stake?
  • Where do CBOs fit into this?
  • How could your CBO engage in the WIOA planning process?
  • What obligations do Workforce Development Boards have in the WIOA planning process and service delivery?


The publication also provides examples of how California nonprofits have engaged with their local public workforce system, including by informing strategy development for Opportunity Youth, having a seat on the local workforce board, becoming a contracted service provider, winning competitive grants through the state workforce board’s Workforce Accelerator Fund, and participating in the state’s trailblazing English Language Learner (ELL) Navigator program.

Finally, nonprofits are provided with practical suggestions for how to participate, including by making public comments at workforce board meetings, sharing reports and data, inviting workforce staff to witness programs in action, and applying for a seat on the workforce board.

The guide complements more formal guidance previously released by the California Workforce Development Board. That guidance requires local workforce boards to take specific steps to ensure that a diverse range of stakeholders have opportunities to participate in WIOA planning.

Posted In: Immigration, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
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