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Federal Policy for Immigrant Children: Room for Common Ground?

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Policymakers and analysts agree on the need to improve the well-being of children in immigrant families in the United States—for example, in the areas of public benefits, education, and economic mobility—but disagree about how to address the problems. The authors of this policy brief are no exception. Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Senior Editor of The Future of Children, seconds the decision of Congress in the 1996 welfare reform law to make noncitizens ineligible for public assistance and Medicaid. He emphasizes the need to tie public benefits for immigrant families to work through such policies as education and training and the earned income tax credit for families with children. Mark Greenberg, Director of Policy at the Center for Law and Social Policy, and Shawn Fremstad, Deputy Director of the Welfare and Income Support Division at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, argue that noncitizen families should have the same eligibility for public assistance as citizen families and support greater financial aid for early childhood education and other forms of schooling. The hope of all three authors, however, is that researchers and public officials will continue to search for common ground to improve life for children of immigrant families, most of whom will grow up as Americans.