Legislation aimed at protecting English language instruction and citizenship programs for at least 100,000 California amnesty applicants has been approved by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Pete Wilson.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), could raise spending for these programs from $41 million to $100 million in the current fiscal year.
The money, which comes from the federal government, would guarantee that the classes be continued and perhaps expanded. The classes help many former illegal immigrants become U. S. citizens.
Farm workers and other non-English-speaking immigrants trooped to the Capitol on several occasions to support the legislation, which was approved by the Assembly 70 to 6 and by the Senate 38 to 0.
“I really think there was an outpouring of outrage by the immigrant population who can’t get these classes,” said Sylvia Ramirez, coordinator of amnesty education programs for the state Department of Education. “This gives Gov. Wilson a real chance to vote for immigrants. We hope he takes it.”
But the Administration’s Health and Welfare Agency opposes the Torres bill, fearing that federal funds that should be spent for health care will go to education.
The amnesty program, called the State Legalization Impact-Assistance Grant Program, began in 1987, after passage of the federal amnesty law.
Congress appropriated $4 billion for health, education and other services to help illegal immigrants who became eligible for U.S. citizenship under terms of the amnesty law.
Of $2.6 billion spent nationally, $1.4 billion has gone to California.
Nearly 1 million people in the state have attended English, citizenship and other classes offered by adult schools, community colleges and community-based organizations.