66,000 in Southland May Not Find Classrooms for Amnesty Training

Times Staff Writer

About 66,000 residents of the Los Angles area who are expected to seek language and civics training under the national amnesty program will not be able to find classrooms, a study by the Immigration and Naturalization Service has estimated.

Schools and private organizations now are capable of providing classes for 712,000 of 778,000 people who will need the training over the two-year second phase of the amnesty program, which begins in November, according to the INS study covering Los Angeles, Orange and five other nearby counties.

In contrast, San Diego public and private agencies can easily handle the 41,000 who need instruction. In the San Francisco area, more than enough classroom seats should be available for the 129,500 amnesty applicants, the study found.


Funding Debated

This pattern emerged as debate quickened over how well Gov. George Deukmejian’s Administration is handling amnesty programs. California is expected to receive $1.5 billion in federal money over the next four years to provide education, health and social services for those seeking legal residence and citizenship.

Under the 1986 immigration law, aliens who resided in this country before 1982 can become permanent legal residents if they gain proficiency in English and show a knowledge of U.S. civics and history. Applicants who fail to show progress in language and civics might ultimately face deportation.

The INS study of classroom resources was conducted over one month and involved contact with every public school and all private agencies known to be interested in assisting, according to Donna Coultice, assistant director for legalization.

Several agencies, including Catholic Charities of California, expressed concern this week that state funding formulas do not provide enough support for private education programs. Catholic Charities, which helped register 90,000 undocumented immigrants in the first phase of the amnesty program, announced Monday that it will cut the number of people to whom it will provide classroom education from 10,000 to 500.

Catholic Charities official Steve Voss attacked Deukmejian’s Sept. 30 veto of legislation that would have increased funding for classroom hours and would have provided an additional $37.50 per student to help private groups begin education programs. The veto, which leaves reimbursement capped at $2.49 per classroom hour through next June, was also assailed by representatives of organized labor and the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles. The INS also publicly supported the bill.

“The people who are left out of classes simply won’t make it through the amnesty program,” said Anne Kamsvaag, a coalition lawyer.

Current funding levels represent the best estimates of demand and costs, a Deukmejian spokesman said. The program will be monitored closely and adjustments may be made if warranted, the spokesman said.

Some districts have gotten a head start. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District estimates that 90,000 people have enrolled in the past or are now enrolled in such classes.