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Bill That Would Deny Adult Education to Some Immigrants Clears N.H. Senate

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Robert Garrova for NHPR
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There were more than 80 signatures in opposition to SB525 during a Senate Education Committee hearing in February. Opponents of the bill worry it will unfairly target adult immigrants who take advantage of English as a Second Language classes.

A bill that would limit state-funded adult education programs to legal residents cleared the Senate last week.

 

Republican Senator Andy Sanborn is the primary sponsor of SB 525. He contends it will focus taxpayer funding on those who can work legally in the state.

 

Sanborn pointed out during a Senate session last week that the bill is not meant to target those on a path to citizenship.

 

“This program does not prohibit anyone who is here as a refugee [and] does not prohibit anyone who is here with a green card,” Sanborn said.

 

But Democratic Senator David Watters and others argue the bill's use of the term “legal resident” is overly vague.

 

“This legislation fails to consider lawful non-citizens such as green card holders and asylum seekers who must wait a certain period of time in order to gain legal resident status,” Watters said.

 

Senator Dan Feltes also spoke in opposition to the bill as amended. “These folks are learning English, they’re working to become productive and we’re going to cut them off at the legs?” Feltes said.  

 

Carol Baldwin is Executive Director of the Nashua Adult Learning Center, which she says is the largest in the state.  Her group provides education to adult learners, including new immigrants.

 

“It would actually be an administrative nightmare for us, because my understanding is that federal law does not require you to ask for the status of a student,” Baldwin said. “And the funding that we get is partially federal and partially state."

 

At Senate Education Committee Hearing last month, more than 80 people signed a statement in opposition to the bill.

 

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