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January 2003, Volume 9, Number 1

MSFW Assistance Programs

The Migrant Education Program (MEP) wins more publicity than other migrant assistance programs. The television documentary program P.O.V. on August 27, 2002 profiled a student enrolled in the MEP http://www.pbs.org/pov/); MEP was described as having enrolled 800,000 students who "labor alongside their parents and siblings to harvest fruits and vegetables throughout the year, forcing them to move according to the seasons…only 45 to 50 percent ever finish high school." http://www.ed.gov/offices/)

Most migrant farm workers are men who travel without their families. MEP enrolls children whose parents used to cross school district lines in search of farm or farm-related work. In MEP's Region One in south Texas, the area from Brownsville to Laredo, some 1,000 MEP teachers and administrators serve 35,000 migrant children. Fresno county has the second-largest MEP program, enrolling 29,000 children aged 3-21; about 85 percent are Hispanic.

Colorado has 370,000 immigrants, and half arrived in the 1990s, usually from Mexico. According to the Migrant Education Program, there are 30,000 migrant students in the state, including 8,000 who come with their parents from homes in Mexico.

Legal Aid. The US Supreme Court is considering the legality of providing the interest earned on escrow accounts held by lawyers and real estate agents to legal aid organizations, some $162 million in 2001. According to critics, diverting IOLTA or Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts to legal aid groups "takes" private property in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Defenders of the IOLTA program say that the foregone interest is too small to represent a taking of private property.

Job Training. The federal government provided $81 million for the National Farmworker Jobs Program in FY02, but President Bush proposed that the program be eliminated in FY03; the programs operate under section 167 of the Workforce Investment Act. The appropriations bill pending in the House would provide $75 million for the program for FY03, while the Senate bill would provide $81 million.

EITC. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which provides a refundable credit for low-income working families with children, has become the second largest program (after Medicaid) in aid of the poor, providing $31 billion in 1999. A single mother with two children who earns less than $21,267 will get a check from the government when she files her income tax, since she gets, in 1999, a standard deduction of $6,350 plus three exemptions at $2,750 each, for a total of $14,600. She also gets two child credits of $500 each, which effectively shields another $6,667 in income from tax. The IRS estimated that the cost of EITC over-claims in 1999 was $8.5 to $10 billion.




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