Biden’s Education Secretary allows undocumented college students to access stimulus funds

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Advocates for immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, rally in front of the Supreme Court June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Education Sec. Miguel Cardona said undocumented and international students can now receive stimulus aid.
  • This lifts a Trump-era policy that banned those students from receiving emergency aid.
  • The top Republican on House Education called it an insult while Senate Education’s top Democrat is relieved.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package included nearly $36 billion in emergency funding for struggling students, but international and undocumented students were ineligible to receive that aid – until now.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona just eliminated that rule.

“The pandemic didn’t discriminate on students,” Cardona said in a press call on Monday. “We know that the final rule will include all students, and we want to make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to funds to help get them back on track.”

On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued a final rule that revised a Trump-era policy barring international and undocumented students from accessing emergency aid. In June, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had issued a rule stating only those who participate in federal student aid programs can receive stimulus money that shut out undocumented and international students, including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, also known as “Dreamers.”

DeVos’ rule also initially barred students who defaulted on student loans and those convicted of minor drug crimes from receiving aid, but that was lifted in January.

Cardona said during the call that the final rule will apply to all three rounds of stimulus funding and will ensure every student who needs it can access aid.

“What this does is really simplify the definition of a student,” Cardona said. “It makes it easier for colleges to administer the program and get the money in the hands of students sooner.”

DeVos’ policy met a number of legal challenges, including an ongoing lawsuit initiated by California Community Colleges that said they have kept millions of dollars received for grants because of DeVos’ limits on who is eligible to receive them.

Rep. Virginia Foxx – the top Republican on the House Education Committee – called it “an insult to every American.”

“President Biden is fueling an immigration crisis, and this final rule exacerbates the emergency at the southern border,” Foxx said in a statement. “I call on elected Democrats to stop swindling law-abiding citizens, put Americans first, and respect the sacrifice of hardworking taxpayers.”

But Chair of the Senate Education Committee Patty Murray said in a statement she was “relieved” Cardona took this step to give every struggling student needed aid.

Separately, the Education Department said in a Tuesday press release that it is now making available $36 billion in grants that will help over 5,000 institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled College or University, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

“These funds are critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s students – particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – have the opportunity to enroll, continue their education, graduate, and pursue their careers,” Cardona said in a statement. “With this action, thousands of institutions will be able to provide direct relief to students who need it most, so we can make sure that we not only recover from the pandemic, but also build back even stronger than before.”

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GOP Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton announce bill to raise the minimum wage that also bars undocumented workers

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Sen. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton at a news conference in 2014.

  • Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton announced on Tuesday a bill to increase the minimum wage.
  • The GOP lawmakers also proposed increasing restrictions to prevent hiring of undocumented workers. 
  • Calls to boost the minimum wage have been circulating on Capitol Hill since Biden became president.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Tuesday announced a proposal aimed at boosting the federal minimum wage coupled with preventing businesses from hiring undocumented workers. 

The two GOP lawmakers said they’ll be introducing a bill that “gradually raises the minimum wage” and “requires employers to verify the legal status of workers.”

“Congress hasn’t raised the minimum wage in more than a decade, leaving many Americans behind,” Romney said Tuesday. “I’m introducing a bill with @SenTomCotton that would increase the minimum wage while ensuring businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants.”

“We have an obligation to protect our workers and fellow citizens,” Cotton said. 

Romney and Cotton did not reveal a number, but said that a higher minimum wage will come “without costing jobs, setting it to increase automatically with inflation.” Cotton said that the increase would be intended to go into effect after the coronavirus pandemic has ended, and would include protections for small businesses.

The Republican senators join calls to boost the minimum wage that have escalated on Capitol Hill since President Joe Biden took office last month, amid an economic downturn caused by the ongoing public health crisis. In his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, Biden has proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour to lift low-income workers out of poverty. Top Democrats immediately backed Biden’s efforts and introduced legislation that would incrementally boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. 

Yet members from both sides of the aisle have balked at the idea. Moderate Democrats have called the increase too large, favoring a lower amount of $11. Republicans, too, have rejected the push to more than double the current federal minimum wage, which has been $7.25 per hour since 2009. They argue that the measure could cause harm to small businesses and trigger more job losses. Due to the widespread opposition, Biden has since suggested that the provision may not be included in a final coronavirus bill.

However, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has said he’s committed to pushing the minimum-wage bill without Senate Republican support through a process called budget reconciliation. The move would override the 60-vote requirement needed to end the filibuster, and allow legislation to pass with a simple majority vote of 51. 

Bills in Congress to raise the minimum wage have been shot down over the years. Romney has previously supported ideas to boost the federal figure.

Further details of Romney’s and Cotton’s bill haven’t been released, and their offices did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment. 

Their announcement also comes as Biden and top Democrats plan to unveil an immigration-reform bill this week, which is expected to include a pathway to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented workers. Research has repeatedly shown that immigrants enrich the economy.

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