CLS pushes for extension of SSI for asylees and refugees who are elderly or severely disabled

August 17, 2011

CLS has worked for years to ensure that asylees and refugees who are elderly or have  severe disabilities that prevent them from working qualify for SSI.  SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, provides subsistence benefits of $674/month.  But asylees and refugees who are unable to become U.S. citizens within a certain time period lose their SSI.

In 2008, CLS worked with nationwide allies to successfully lobby the U.S. Congress to pass an extension of time so that refugees and asylees could continue to receive SSI while they applied for naturalization.  Unfortunately, that legislation is set to sunset, or expire, on October 1, 2011.

Last week, however, Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced a bill that would extend SSI for two more years for many asylees and refugees.  CLS continues to push Congress to remove the artificial time limit for asylees and refugees to receive SSI.  In the meantime, we are encouraged by this bill and are working hard to ensure that it is passed before thousands of asylees and refugees who are elderly or disabled lose their SSI at the end of September.

A press release issued by the National Immigration Law Center, a strong ally in these efforts, is below. Read the rest of this entry »

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5,600 Refugees Lose Their SSI Benefits this Month

October 4, 2010

This month, up to 5,600 severely disabled and elderly refugees will lose their SSI checks.  Early last week,  Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill to extend this vital safety net lifeline, but unfortunately, Congress adjourned prior to voting on this extension.

Community Legal Services has worked for years helping low-income refugees and asylees who are too disabled or elderly to work.  For many of these humanitarian immigrants, monthly SSI payments of approximately $700 per month are the only income they have to pay for rent, utilities, and other costs of daily living.

In 2006, CLS filed a national class action lawsuit on behalf of 60,000 immigrants.  The settlement in that lawsuit, called Kaplan v. Chertoff,  required the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to expedite the citizenship applications for immigrants subject to the time limit on SSI benefits.  In 2008, CLS joined a national coalition of advocacy organizations and successfully lobbied for a two-year extension of SSI for these immigrants.  Sadly, despite national media attention and the efforts of dozens of advocacy groups, that extension has now ended for many of these refugees.

CLS hopes to renew its efforts to obtain an extension of SSI eligibility for affected refugees when Congress returns after the election.  In the meantime, for more information, check out this publication by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  If you or someone you know has been affected by this cut off, you can find more information about your rights by reading our Advocates’ Guide to the October 2010 Cut-off.

A video produced by Michael Wong, a U/Penn Law Student, about Shmul Kaplan, the named plaintiff in the 2006 class action law suit can be viewed below.