Biden Steps Up To Protect Immigrants With Reversal Of Trump Policy

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The Biden team is undoing a Trump era policy that blocked certain COVID-19-related relief money from reaching undocumented immigrants studying at colleges and universities across the country. The pandemic, of course, has not only affected those with U.S. citizenship, and just like other residents, undocumented immigrants actively engage with and contribute to their communities, in addition to the possibility that they themselves may become citizens one day. The Trump administration nevertheless decided to punitively block undocumented students from receiving potentially critical assistance.

Notably, three federal judges struck down the Trump era ban on distributing funds to undocumented students, but their rulings only covered students at certain educational institutions in individual states, leaving the federal issue in place.

The money in question is meant to cover costs like food and childcare, and although it originates from the federal government, it’s distributed through educational institutions, with restrictions on its use. The Trump administration had excluded undocumented immigrants from the assistance by blocking it from going to those who don’t qualify for federal student aid, which covers expenses like tuition for low-income learners, but Education Secretary Miguel Cardona “finalized” the new rule on Tuesday that would allow all students to have access to pandemic-related assistance, POLITICO reports.

As Cardona put it, the “pandemic didn’t discriminate which students got Covid, so the final rule does allow for all students” to benefit from the relief funds. Cardona said that authorities want to “make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to the funds to help them get back on track.” Notably, because of the lifting of certain restrictions on the distribution of the funding, it will be “easier for colleges to administer the program and get money in the hands of students sooner,” Cardona also observed.

According to the terms of the COVID-19 economic relief package known as the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed into law earlier this year, the Education Department is beginning distribution of a total of $36 billion in financial relief for the higher education sector, including students. Besides the impact on undocumented students, the Trump administration’s block on distributing funds to those who didn’t qualify for federal student aid also excluded individuals who may have previously defaulted on a student loan or been convicted of a drug charge. Both of those issues ordinarily mean students can’t get aid.

Pointedly, the Biden administration is also now allowing colleges and universities to use their institutional shares of the relief funds “to boost efforts to vaccinate students on their campus against Covid, including by setting up new vaccination sites and by paying for” vaccine-related educational efforts, POLITICO explains. The relief funds are part of wide-ranging efforts by the Biden administration to assist the American people.