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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR REFUGEES

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I've blogged in the past about a lingering problem related to the 1996 welfare reform bill that relates to certain immigrants. Under that law, elderly refugees were given a seven year cutoff period after which they were no longer eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This has been a major problem because many very old refugees are too frail and infirm to work and their SSI benefits are their lifeline.



The only way to keep the benefits is for these folks to naturalize. That's possible for some, but many have great difficulty learning English because of their age or medical condition and are not approved for exam waivers, some are subject to long security clearances, and others deal with everything from lost papers to unexplained delays.



I'm pleased to report that Congress has passed the SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act which will provide two additional years of SSI benefits and a third year for those making good faith efforts to naturalize. Refugees who previously lost their benefits will have a limited ability to begin receiving benefits again.



I want to congratulate Gideon Aronoff, Mark Hetfield, Lisa Shuger, Melanie Nezer and Stephanie Grosser, the incredibly dedicated staff members at HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, who have worked this issue tirelessly and did not give up hope even when things looked pretty bleak. They've had partners at many other agencies, but they certainly deserve a great deal of the credit for success on this issue. I know of what I speak because I've participated in
several meetings as a HIAS board member that took place at the White
House and on Capitol Hill where this problem was addressed at the
highest levels.



This is a really nice piece of news at the end of a pretty bleak year for immigration in Congress.

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