By Jonathan Sperling
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng joined two other congressmembers Wednesday to present legislation that would establish assistance programs for immigrants and refugees to the United States.
The New Deal for New Americans Act would introduce numerous provisions that would support new immigrants, by creating the National Office of New Americans in the Executive Office, a Legal Services and Immigration Assistance Grant Program to support organizations that provide direct immigration assistance, and by providing automatic voter registration of newly naturalized individuals.
The act would also increase refugee admission level to 110,000 per fiscal year and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to no longer allow deportation of a person deemed to have become a public charge.
Meng, the daughter of immigrants, described the legislation as “a bold and sweeping effort to strengthen support for immigrants and refugees.”
“Immigrants and refugees have always been America’s strength, and improving our system to welcome new Americans will ensure that our nation continues to thrive. I will always stand with the hardworking immigrants of this nation and I urge all my colleagues to do the same, and support this critical bill,” said Meng, whose district includes Central and Eastern Queens.
U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Jesús “Chuy” García, who came to the U.S. as immigrants themselves, joined Meng in introducing the bill.
The legislation would also create an “English as a Gateway to Integration Program” for organizations that teach English or help individuals prepare for naturalization or earn a GED, along with a Workforce Development Grant Program that the legislators say would ensure that immigrants and refugees have equal access to education and workforce programs that help equip them with occupational skills needed for securing or advancing in employment.
In the pursuit of reducing barriers, the bill would establish a flat application fee for naturalization, amending the English and civics exam requirements for older individuals, and exempting eligible U.S. high school graduates from taking the naturalization exams.