PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE
Welcoming New Americans
Welcoming New Americans. Since 1993, the United States has welcomed nearly 4.4 million new American citizens. Faced with this unprecedented number of applications, the Clinton-Gore Administration undertook an initiative that has significantly reduced the backlog of citizenship applications and is restoring timely processing while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the process. The INS is on track to meet its goal of reducing this backlog by completing 1.3 million applications this fiscal year while maintaining the highest levels of quality and integrity.
Ensuring Consistency and Efficiency in the Current Naturalization System. On July 4, 2000, the President directed the INS to develop a plan to redesign and standardize the current citizenship testing process. Currently, different areas of the country use testing methods and standards for reading and writing of the English language and U.S. history and government. This plan will help guarantee a consistent test and testing process is available and administered nationwide.
English Literacy/Civics Initiative. The Clinton-Gore FY 2001 budget includes $75 million for the English Language/Civics Initiative -- a nearly $50 million increase to help an additional estimated 250,000 limited English proficient (LEP) individuals. This program helps states and communities provide LEP individuals with expanded access to quality English-language instruction linked to civics and life skills instruction, including understanding the U.S. government system, the public education system, the workplace, and other key institutions of American life.
Providing Fairness to All Immigrants. The President is urging Congress to pass legislation to correct injustices currently affecting many immigrants and provide fairness to immigrant families. The Registry Date legislation would allow certain immigrants of good moral character who have been living in the U.S. for 15 years or more to adjust their immigration status. The Central American and Haitian Parity Act of 1999 would amend the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act to provide certain nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti an opportunity to apply for adjustment of status under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). This parity provision would not only provide compassion and fairness for the affected immigrants, but also contribute to the development of stability and peace in these emerging democracies. The reinstatement of section 245(i) will allow families to stay together while applications for adjustment of status are pending approval.
Restoring Benefits to Legal Immigrants. The President believes that legal immigrants should have the same economic opportunity, and bear the same responsibility, as other members of society. In the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Agricultural Research Act of 1998, the President fought for and succeeded in reversing unfair cuts in benefits to legal immigrants. The FY 2001 budget builds on the Administration's progress of restoring these important benefits by providing $2.5 billion over five years to allow states to provide health care to certain legal immigrant children and their families and pregnant women, to restore SSI eligibility to legal immigrants with disabilities, and to restore Food Stamp eligibility to certain aged immigrants and to legal immigrants who live in a household with Food Stamp eligible children.
Assuring Families Access to Health Care and Other Benefits. In May 1999, the Vice President announced new actions to assure families that enrolling in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and receiving other critical benefits, such as school lunch and child care services, will not affect their immigration status. The new Department of Justice regulation clarifies a widespread misconception that has deterred eligible populations from enrolling in these programs and undermined the nation's public health. In addition, the Vice President directed Federal agencies to send guidance to their field offices, program grantees and to work with community organizations to educate Americans about this new policy.
Opposed English-Only Legislation. The Clinton-Gore Administration strongly opposed legislation to make English the official language of the United States, which would have jeopardized services and programs for non-English speakers and jeopardized assistance to the tens of thousands of new immigrants and others seeking to learn English as adults.
Strengthening Bilingual and Immigrant Education. The President is committed to ensuring that students with limited English skills get the extra help they need in order to learn English and meet the same high standards expected for all students. The Clinton-Gore Administration fought for and won a 35 percent increase in bilingual and immigrant education in 1997, and won another $26 million increase in the FY 2000 budget. Bilingual education funding helps school districts teach English to more than a million limited English proficient children, while the Immigrant Education program helps more than a thousand school districts provide supplemental instructional services to more than 800,000 recent immigrant students.
Providing Quality Bilingual Education. Bilingual education funding also provides teachers with the training they need to teach LEP students. In FY 1999, the Administration fought for and won a doubling of the investments in bilingual teacher training as part of its Hispanic Education Action Plan. And in his proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the President has proposed additional help to ensure that all teachers are well-trained to meet the needs of students with Limited English Proficiency. His proposal would also make schools and districts more accountable for helping children with Limited English Proficiency master their academic subjects and learn English. The Administration's FY 2001 budget increases funding for these programs by an additional $832 million.
Extra Help for Limited-English Proficient Children. In 1994, President Clinton reformed the Title I program, eliminating barriers that had prevented limited-English proficient children from getting help.
Increased Assistance for Migrant Children and Families. Migrant families face particularly difficult obstacles to gaining the education and training they would need to improve their standard of living. President Clinton improved the Migrant Education Program in the 1994 reauthorization, won a 16 percent increase in FY 1999, and won another increase in FY 2000 -- bringing the total to $22 million. As part of his Hispanic Education Action Plan, the President also won increases for the High School Equivalency Program, the, College Assistance Migrant Program, and funding for a Migrant Youth Job Training Demonstration.
Opposed Efforts to Keep Immigrant Children Out of Public Schools. The Clinton-Gore Administration opposed the Gallegly Amendment, which would have ended the guarantee of public education for all children. It would have shifted immigration enforcement from the borders and work sites to classrooms and made children susceptible to gangs and violence. The Administration also opposed California's Proposition 187, which would have made illegal immigrants ineligible for public school education at all levels and ineligible for public health care services.
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