Amid surveys that show a vast swath of America struggling to make ends meet due to the impact of COVID-19, illegal immigrants can now collect taxpayer money as part of the billions being doled out to colleges.
The Department of Education on Tuesday implemented a final rule that ended a Trump administration ban on illegal immigrants and international students collecting aid that was sent to colleges to be handed over to students who claim they have experienced financial or other hardship — including food insecurity — due to the coronavirus.
“In their capacity as students, undocumented persons, like all postsecondary students, pursue degrees, obtain employment commensurate with their educational attainment and in doing so contribute to the greater good of the economy and society as a whole,” the rule stated.
“The Department has been persuaded, therefore, by the public comments received that there is no good policy reason to treat them differently.”
Overall, Congress has ladled out $35 billion into a pot for colleges to give out to students who say they need help, but did not set guidelines to define who was eligible.
During the Trump administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos relied on the rules of existing student aid programs, which meant illegal immigrants could not collect.
“[T]he CARES Act makes clear that this taxpayer funded relief fund should be targeted to US citizens, which is consistently echoed throughout this law,” a spokesman for the Department of Education said at the time, according to Forbes.
All that has changed now that the Biden administration makes the rules.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the change on Monday.
“The pandemic didn’t discriminate … and we want to make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to funds to help them get back on track,” Cardona said, according to The Washington Post.
Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Education and Labor, called the action “an insult to every American.”
“The law is clear; federal funds are for hardworking citizens. President Biden is fueling an immigration crisis, and this final rule exacerbates the emergency at the southern border. I call on elected Democrats to stop swindling law-abiding citizens, put Americans first, and respect the sacrifice of hardworking taxpayers,” she said in a statement.
Colleges reportedly supported the change.
“Denying emergency grants to DACA and undocumented students wasn’t just legally questionable, it was a moral failing, and I’m relieved to see this finally corrected,” Justin Draeger, the president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said, according to The Post.
However, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was prone to agree with Foxx’s opinion on the matter.
Cruz backed the ruling when issued last year.
“College students who are in the United States illegally should not be benefiting from taxpayer dollars in a coronavirus relief bill — period,” a spokeswoman for the senator said at the time, according to Inside Higher Ed.
“Secretary DeVos was right to make that decision,” the spokeswoman said. “At this point, Democrats simply want to shovel cash that we don’t have at the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
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