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Immigrant benefits updates - public charge, Haitians, SSA work letters

The following items may be of interest to Coalition members working with immigrant clients.

1. Department of Homeland Security updates fact sheet on "public charge."

The United States Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under DHS has updated its fact sheet explaining which federal and state public benefits can affect immigration status or trigger a "determination of public charge." Here's the April 29, 2011 USCIS Fact Sheet. Public charge means that certain immigrants seeking legal status in the U.S. (usually based on a relative or employer petition) may be denied that legal status if the immigrant is likely to become dependent on government assistant for support. One of the ways that USCIS determines public charge is if there is past or current receipt of public assistance benefits. USCIS has again confirmed a long standing policy whereby "non-cash and special purpose benefits that are not intended for income maintenance are not subject to public charge consideration". In other words, food stamps/SNAP, WIC benefits, TEFAP, school meals, most health care benefits, housing benefits, job training, etc DO NOT create public charge problems!

This reissued guidance is helpful to share with clients who express concern about receipt of SNAP or other benefits. Unfortunately, it does not change the questions on the USCIS forms that ask applicants for adjustment of status (persons seeking green cards) whether or not they have ever received "public assistance, other than emergency medical care". (See Part III, USCIS Form I-485). MLRI is working with Feeding America, Child Health Watch and other organization to urge USCIS to revise its forms so that the message about non-cash and special benefits is consistent with this federal guidance. If you have clients who have been discouraged from applying for food stamps/SNAP, WIC, school meals, or other non-cash benefits because of the questions on any USCIS forms, please let me or Kelly Love at MLRI know. The more scenarios (we do not need client identifiers, just client examples), the better!

2. Department of Homeland Security extends Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians!

 Massachusetts has the third largest Haitian community in the US. We are please to report that on May 17th DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be extended for an additional 18 months, through January 22, 2013 and that additional Haitians who entered the U.S. after the earthquake may also be eligible to apply for this status. Here is the DHS news report: http://www.dhs.gov/news/2011/05/17/secretary-napolitano-announces-extension-temporary-protected-status-haiti MLRI, MIRA and other groups will be hosting meetings or trainings in the near future to share more information on the TPS changes.

 In terms of SNAP eligiblity, unfortunately, immigrants granted TPS are not eligible for federal SNAP benefits, SSI ,TAFDC or regular Medicaid (MassHealth Standard). TPS immigrants who are elderly or severely disabled and very low income/assets may be eligible for the limited EAEDC cash assistance program. Special MassHealth coverage may also be available. Needy immigrants should also be eligible for WIC, TEFAP, fuel assistance and other programs that do not have the same immigrant status restrictions as the core safety-net programs. Ineligible immigrants who live with any US citizen or LPR household members can certainly apply for benefits for eligible household members. The earnings or other income of ineligible TPS immigrants is counted toward the household, but should be counted in a favorable manner so as not to make the rest of the household worse off. Special rules apply for “mixed household” calculations. If you have questions about TPS immigrants and benefits, contact Pat Baker or Virginia Benzan at MLRI.

3. SSA No-Match Letters affecting Immigrant Workers.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that it will resume its practice of notifying employers of discrepancies in employee paperwork through “no-match letters” - a mechanism that threatens countless American jobs. Despite the Obama administration’s clear assertion that the SSA letter “makes no statement” about a worker’s immigration status, employer confusion over the letters has led to erroneous firings and lost wages in the past, and threatens to do so again. It is anticipated that over 1 million workers will be the subjects of these letters. More information at:

https://www.dwt.com/advisories/The_Return_of_Social_Security_NoMatch_Letters_05_04_2011/​

If you have clients whose employers have received these “No Match” SSA letters, please contact MLRI and we will put you in touch with our employment law advocates. Contact me or Kelly Love at MLRI.