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Courses for Legalized Aliens Found in Short Supply

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Mandatory education services for legalized aliens are in short supply and would have to be increased by more than 60 percent in order to make it possible for all amnesty applicants to meet citizenship requirements, according to a report by a national immigration-policy group.

Of the 1.7 million applicants for amnesty under the 1986 immigration-reform law, about 975,000 will need to take citizenship-training classes in order to stay legally in the country, the Washington-based National Council of La Raza Policy Analysis Center estimates in a new report.

Persons applying for amnesty who cannot prove basic knowledge of English and U.S. civics and history must enroll within a year in a course providing at least 40 hours of such training.

The report warns that there will not be enough classroom slots available for amnesty applicants to enroll in programs before their 12-month "window" is closed unless changes are made in the federal regulations governing alien education.

There are 1.6 million slots in citizenship programs nationwide, most of them offered by public schools, the report estimates.

In the past year, the study states, the number of slots available has increased by 18 percent.

But, according to Charles Kamasaki, director of the policy center, there are still not enough slots even though the total number greatly exceeds the number of amnesty applicants needing training. Many of the slots are taken by immigrants who are exempt from the regulations or have already satisfied the 40-hour minimum, he explained.

All of the courses are filled to capacity, and, in several states, demand has already far exceeded supply.

The greatest demand for education services, the report indicates, is in California, where an estimated 504,421 to 623,648 slots are needed.

California officials expect enrollment in citizenship classes to reach 1.9 million by the end of the year. (See Education Week, March 22, 1989.)

Even with a 60 percent increase in education services nationwide, the report states, many aliens may be unable to fulfill their requirements.

Mr. Kamasaki argued that immi8grant-education programs should be expanded both to meet the needs of those seeking amnesty and those who want more education.

Because schools are often unable to provide enough teachers or space to keep up with demand, the report suggests that community-based organizations be allowed to offer citizenship courses under contract with school districts.

The council also recommends that states and the Immigration and Naturalization Service restructure regulations by expanding existing exemptions, extending the window of fulfillment to 30 months, and allowing use of federal funds for outreach programs.--lj

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