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Adult Education Funding Can Pave the Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants
Posted by Kevin Morgan on April 13, 2021 in categoryCEO DeskcategoryNewscategoryAdvocacy

The House of Representatives passed two immigration bills last month, the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. While these bills are a step in the right direction, broader immigration reform is needed to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The President’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 begins to address these needs.  

 

The history of the United States is lined with a long list of immigration policies, starting with the Nationality Act of 1790. The 1790 act established standards and procedures by which immigrants became U.S. citizens. Proposals to offer a pathway to citizenship are not new. In 2013 a bipartisan group of eight senators passed legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country. At that timeProLiteracy advocated for including additional funding for adult education programs in any pathway to citizenship legislation. This funding would have provided undocumented immigrants access to education resources to grow their skills and capabilities. Ultimately the 2013 immigration legislation passed in the Senate but failed to move forward in the House. 

 

Providing a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States is a way to keep families together, promote civic engagement, and benefit the U.S. economy. It is estimated that permitting undocumented immigrants to legally work in the U.S. would add $2.1 billion in state and local tax revenue1 

If a pathway to citizenship bill is to be considered, ProLiteracy advocates for incremental adult literacy education funding to be included in such a billThe funding would provide local programs and community-based organizations that offer adult basic education to marginalized adultsmany of them immigrantsthe resources they need to provide instructionAdult basic education instruction includes reading, writing, basic math, English language learning (ELL), citizenship test preparation, high school equivalency degree preparation, and workforce training. ELL in particular is in demand as approximately half of immigrants in the U.S. are not English proficient2The proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 does include $200 billion in education fundingand ProLiteracy considers this a critical component to helping individuals to achieve citizenship.   

  

Research has shown that funding adult basic education will provide a positive return on investment. A longitudinal study3 on the impact of adult basic skills education found that students that participated in at least 100 hours of instruction showed a dramatic increase in income over time and higher likelihood to obtain a high school equivalency degree and pursue a secondary education. Given the available data, incremental adult basic skill funding must be part of any pathway to citizenship legislation or other immigration reform. With additional funding, adult literacy programs can expand capacity and build partnerships with other social service agencies who serve the immigrant population.  



The demand for adult education services from local programs will continue to grow with future immigration. Immigrants and their descendants are projected to account for 88 percent of U.S. population growth through 2065.  


Who exactly are the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today4 

  • Undocumented immigrants represent 3.2 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • The American Community Survey showed that 1 in 6 workers in the U.S. in 2018 were immigrants, and that trend will continue.
  • Undocumented immigrants come from a variety of geographic regions including Mexico, Central America, and Asia.
  • The U.S. civilian workforce includes 7.6 million undocumented immigrants.
  • Six states account for 57 percent of undocumented immigrants: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. 
  • In 2017, 66 percent of undocumented immigrant adults had been in the U.S. more than 10 years.

 

Summary 

  • The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States is close to 11 million. 
  • The majority of undocumented immigrants (66 percent) have been in the U.S. more than 10 years. 
  • The U.S. civilian workforce includes 7.6 million undocumented immigrants. 
  • Immigrants and their descendants are projected to account for 88 percent of U.S. population growth through 2065. 
  • ProLiteracy recommends the U.S. federal government adopt a comprehensive immigration reform policy that includes legislation that outlines a pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. 
  • Providing a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States is a way to keep families together, engage immigrants in civic duties, and benefit the U.S. economy. 
  • ProLiteracy recommends that any pathway to citizenship legislation include incremental funding for local community-based organizations that provide adult basic education services in order to provide undocumented immigrants the resources they need to improve reading, writing, basic math, English language learning (ELL), citizenship test preparation, high school equivalency degree preparation, and workforce training. 

 

  1. Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy March 2017 
  2. Pew Research Center tabulations of 1980-2000 decennial censuses and 2010, 2013-2018 American Community Surveys 
  3. Reder, S. (2014). The Impact of ABS Program Participation on Long-Term Economic Outcomes. 
  4. Pew Research Center – 5 Facts About Illegal Immigration in the U.S., June 2019 

 



 





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