THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT GORE ANNOUNCES ADMINISTRATION WILL SEEK TO RESTORE ADDITIONAL BENEFITS FOR LEGAL IMMIGRANTS Also Announces $70 Million to Expand Access to English Language Proficiency Instruction
Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore announced today that the Administration will seek $1.3 billion over five years to restore important disability, health, and nutrition benefits to legal immigrants.
"Let us remember that here in America, as Franklin Roosevelt once reminded us, we are all descended from immigrants," Vice President Gore said. "We have an obligation to extend the full promise of America to those who have legally entered its gates. That is how we can truly fulfill the words of our founders, and become 'one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' "
Upon signing the 1996 welfare law, President Clinton pledged to reverse the unnecessary cuts in benefits to legal immigrants that had nothing to do with the goal of moving people from welfare to work. Last year, the Administration restored disability and health benefits to 420,000 legal immigrants who were in this country before welfare reform became law (August 22, 1996), at an estimated cost of $11.5 billion.
Today, the Vice President announced that the Administration would continue to build on this progress. In particular, he announced:
Restoring Benefits for Disability and Health -- The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 restored disability and health benefits to 420,000 legal immigrants who were in this country before welfare reform became law (August 22, 1996), at an estimated cost of $11.5 billion. The Administration's new budget would restore eligibility for SSI and Medicaid to legal immigrants who enter the country after that date if they have been in the U.S. for five years and become disabled after entering the United States. This proposal would cost approximately $930 million and assist an estimated 54,000 legal immigrants by 2004, about half of whom would be elderly. Nutritional Assistance -- The Agricultural Research Act of 1998 provided Food Stamps for 225,000 legal immigrant children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities who came to the United States by August 22, 1996. The Administration's budget would extend this provision by allowing legal immigrants in the United States on August 22, 1996 who subsequently reach age 65 to be eligible for Food Stamps at cost of $60 million. Childrens' Health Care and Maternal Care for Pregnant Women -- States currently can provide health coverage to immigrant children who entered the country before August 22, 1996. The President's FY 2000 budget would give states the option to provide health coverage to legal immigrant children who entered the country after August 22, 1996. Under this proposal, states could provide health coverage to those children through Medicaid or their CHIP allotment. The proposal would cost $220 million and serve approximately 55,000 children by FY 2004. Furthermore, the budget proposes to give states the option to provide Medicaid coverage to legal immigrant women who entered the country after August 22, 1996 and subsequently became pregnant. Such coverage would help reduce the number of high-risk pregnancies, ensure healthier children, and lower the cost of emergency Medicaid deliveries. This proposal would cost $105 million and serve approximately 23,000 women by FY 2004. The Vice President also announced today that the Administration
will seek $70 million to help states and communities provide expanded access to high quality English language proficiency instruction.
"Legal immigrants should have the same opportunity, and bear the same responsibility, as other members of society. We know many non US-citizens want to learn English and participate in civic life," Vice President Gore said. "But currently, the demand for instruction far outweighs the supply. These funds will help ensure that everyone in our country who wants to learn has the opportunity to learn."
English language instruction is the fastest growing component in adult education today. Enrollment in English Language Proficiency (ELP) classes has increased 72% over the past ten years, with much of the demand for instruction coming from immigrant communities.
Under the proposed initiative, English Language Proficiency (ELP) instruction would be linked to practical instruction in civics, history, and life skills including how to navigate the banking system, the public education system, and/or the workplace. Communities would be encouraged to develop English language and civic education projects tailored to their specific needs and populations.
Under the proposal, the $70 million would be available in competitive grants to States, community-based organizations, local education agencies, tribally-controlled schools, institutions of higher education, public libraries, and other non-profits.
If approved, the initiative would provide English language and civics instruction to approximately 150,000 people in Fiscal Year 2000.
This announcement builds on the recently announced Administration's expansion of the Hispanic Education Action Plan, bringing the total for that proposal to $550 million.
PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE: A RECORD OF RESTORING BENEFITS TO LEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Upon signing the 1996 welfare law, President Clinton vowed to reverse some of the unnecessary cuts in benefits to legal immigrants. The President and Vice President fought for three laws continuing or restoring SSI, Medicaid, and Food Stamps to certain groups of legal immigrants. The Balanced Budget Act (BBA) "grandfathered" eligibility for SSI and Medicaid for legal immigrants, while the Agricultural Research Act addressed eligibility for Food Stamps. In addition, legislation making technical corrections to benefits for legal immigrants restored SSI and Medicaid eligibility of certain recipients not covered under the BBA.
Balanced Budget Act of 1997 Restored Disability and Health Benefits -- The BBA restored SSI and Medicaid eligibility to some legal immigrants. CBO estimated the cost of these provisions at $11.5 billion over five years ($9.5 billion for SSI, $2 billion for Medicaid). Briefly, the BBA: Continued SSI and related Medicaid for legal immigrants receiving benefits on August 22, 1996; Allowed SSI and Medicaid benefits for legal immigrants who were here on August 22, 1996 and who later become disabled; Extended the exemption from SSI and Medicaid restrictions for refugees and asylees from five to seven years after entry; Classified Cuban/Haitians and Amerasians as refugees, as they were prior to 1996; Exempted certain native Americans living along the Canadian and Mexican borders from SSI and Medicaid restrictions. Agricultural Research Act of 1998 Restored Food Stamp Eligibility -- The Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 restored Food Stamp eligibility to approximately 225,000 legal immigrants at a cost of $818 million over five years. Under the Act, the following groups became eligible for Food Stamps: Noncitizen children under age 18 who entered by August 22, 1996; Legal immigrants here by August 22, 1996, who were age 65 and over or disabled on that date, or who become disabled after that date; Refugees and asylees for seven years after entry as refugees or obtaining asylum status in the U.S., as opposed to five years under the welfare law; Hmong refugees; and Certain Native Americans living along the Canadian and Mexican borders. Technical Amendments Act of 1998 Protected Those Receiving Assistance -- The Noncitizen Technical Amendments Act of 1998 ensured that individuals who were receiving disability and health benefits when welfare reform became law were able to continue receiving assistance, even if they were too disabled to prove their date of entry into the U.S. This change protected an estimated 3,400 elderly and severely disabled recipients at a cost of $41 million over five years. ###