A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Letter by a Florida Teacher


Q: Is a letter from an anonymous teacher about illegal immigrants getting school grants true?

A: No. It cobbles together misleading statements to give the impression that illegal immigrants are receiving perks from taxpayers, when, in fact, they are not.

FULL QUESTION

Is this e-mail about illegals true?

*Letter by a Florida teacher……………. A teacher speaks*

*This is a subject close to my heart. Do you know that we have adult students at the school where I teach who are not US citizens and who get the PELL grant, which is a federal grant (no pay back required) plus other federal grants to go to school?*

*One student from the Dominican Republic told me that she didn’t want me to find a job for her after she finished my program, because she was getting housing from our housing department and she was getting a PELL grant which paid for her total tuition and books, plus money leftover.*

[EET ]

*She was looking into WAIT which gives students a CREDIT CARD for gas to come to school, and into CARIBE which is a special program (check it out – I did) for immigrants and it pays for child care and all sorts of needs while they go to school or training. The one student I just mentioned told me she was not going to be a US Citizen because she plans to return to the Dominican Republic someday and that she ‘loves HER country.’*

* I asked her if she felt guilty taking what the US is giving her and then not even bothering to become a citizen and she told me that it doesn’t bother her, because that is what the money is there for!*

* I asked the CARIBE administration about their program and if you ARE a US Citizen, you don’t qualify for their program. And all the while, I am working a full day, my son-in-law works more than 60 hours a week, and everyone in my family works and pays for our education.*

* Something is wrong here. I am sorry but after hearing they want to sing the National Anthem in Spanish – enough is enough. Nowhere did they sing it in Italian, Polish, Irish (Celtic), German or any other language because of immigration. It was written by Francis Scott Key and should be sung word for word the way it was written. The news broadcasts even gave the translation — not even close.Sorry if this offends anyone but this is MY COUNTRY.*

* IF IT IS YOUR COUNTRY SPEAK UP — please pass this along. I am not against immigration — just come through like everyone else.*

*Get a sponsor; have a place to lay your head; have a job; pay your** taxes, live by the rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE as all other immigrants have in the past — and GOD BLESS AMERICA!*

* PART OF THE PROBLEM, Think about this: If you don’t want to forward this for fear of offending someone — YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM! It is Time for America to Speak up If you agree — pass this along, if you don’t agree — delete it!* [/EET]

FULL ANSWER

Several people have e-mailed asking us if it was true that "illegals were receiving these benefits." They’re not.

If you read through the e-mail carefully, you’ll find that it never uses the term "illegal immigrant." Rather, the anonymous author makes careful mention of people who "are not U.S. citizens." That is because it addresses programs available to LEGAL immigrants who entered the country by legal means or have legal permanent resident status. But none of the programs are available to illegal immigrants.

The teacher’s story begins by claiming a "student from the Dominican Republic … was getting a Pell grant which paid for her tuition and books, plus money left over."  That’s a stretch. A Pell grant can be used for all of those needs.  But the maximum grant size for the 2007-2008 school year is $4,310, so using it to cover a full year’s worth of tuition and books with money left over would be a near impossible feat – at least with the tuition costs we’ve seen recently. And to be eligible for the Pell grant, an individual has to be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen as specified by the Department of Education. That would include permanent residents and refugees.

The "teacher" then says that a program called CARIBE pays "for child care and all sorts of needs while they [immigrants] go to school or training." Well, we called the CARIBE program and found that this anonymous teacher’s story is way off-base. The CARIBE program, Career Recruitment and Instruction in Basic English, does not offer any type of child care. Rather, it "provides free English language, GED, and Hi-Tec vocational training to recent Cuban, Haitian, and other entrants with refugee or asylee status" in Hillsborough County, Florida. Dave Schmidt, the program administrator, says that you have to be a "legal documented refugee" as classified by the U.S. government to be eligible. This also makes it highly unlikely that a Dominican would qualify. The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t list the Dominican Republic among the 103 nations of origin for those granted asylum from 1997 to 2006. Despite the fact that CARIBE’s Web site clearly explains its work with refugees and asylees, Schmidt says he’s received "over 600 e-mails" since January about this chain letter and has been besieged with calls from around the country, even from congressional offices in Washington.

We were unable to find any program named WAIT that might give immigrants credit cards, as described in the e-mail. Snopes.com, which also debunked this bogus rant, said that it might be referring to the Why Am I Tempted program in Florida,  which has nothing to do with immigrants, legal or illegal, or credit cards. Instead it teaches "key health and youth development messages to middle school and high school students."

We hope this article clears up the confusion and allows Dave Schmidt at the CARIBE program a bit more rest.

–Justin Bank

 

Sources

"Most Expensive Colleges," Campus Grotto. United States. Department of Homeland Security.

"Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2006," U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, 2007. Table 17.

FactCheck.org interview. Dave Schmidt, program administrator, CARIBE.

Federal Pell Grant. Federal Student Aid Web site. studentaid.ed.gov, 9 June 2008.

U.S. Department of Education. "Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid," 2008-09.