400 National, State, Local Organizations Urge Congress To Extend Benefits To Vulnerable Refugees

Posted on Mon, Jul 02, 2007 at 10:21 am

A HIAS-Led Effort

(Washington, D.C.)– A group of nearly 400 national, state and local organizations organized by HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is urging Congress to support the “SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act.”

The bill provides a two-year extension of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility for elderly and disabled refugees, as well as a provision to cover those who lost benefits prior to enactment of the legislation.The bill will also ensure that refugees who are making efforts to become citizens, but are caught up in the processing backlogs through no fault of their own, are given additional time to naturalize.

In a letter sent last week, the group calls the bipartisan bill “a critical lifeline to thousands of elderly and disabled refugees who are about to lose, or have already lost, their SSI benefits due to the arbitrary seven-year time limit to which their eligibility is limited.”

“The number of people who are losing their life-sustaining SSI benefits, in large part due to delays in the immigration system beyond their control, is climbing,” the letter continues. “The Social Security Administration currently projects that 50,000 elderly and disabled refugees will face extreme hardship and destitution by 2012 due to the suspension of their SSI benefits. These individuals fled persecution or torture in countries such as Iran, Russia, Iraq, Vietnam and Somalia, and now are too elderly or disabled to support themselves.”

Jews from the former Soviet Union are more affected by the limits on SSI than any other previous refugee group because the large wave of Russian Jewish emigration to the U.S. in the 1990s was demographically the oldest in U.S. history. This wave of Russian Jewish emigration happened to coincide with the 1996 adoption in the welfare reform law that conditioned the receipt of SSI benefits for the disabled, blind and elderly on achieving citizenship within the first seven years of entry into the country after Aug. 22, 1996.

Among those who have already lost SSI benefits is an elderly Jewish woman named Esfir who fled persecution in Russia and applied for asylum in the U.S. at the age of 72. She was granted asylum in 1999, but did not receive her green card until 2005 due to a backlog of asylee adjustment applications. Esfir was cut off from her SSI benefits in 2006, and cannot even apply to become a citizen until 2009. In addition to the many medical problems from which she suffers, Esfir has now fallen into extreme poverty since she lost her SSI benefits and has no hope of regaining those benefits until she becomes a citizen. This is only one of the thousands of heartbreaking stories that we will continue to be confronted with unless Congress acts now to lengthen the insufficient eligibility period for this extremely vulnerable population.

In addition to HIAS, the letter is signed by several other prominent Jewish organizations, including the United Jewish Communities; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; American Jewish Committee; Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies; Women of Reform Judaism; The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring; and Women of Reform Judaism.

Other national organizations include Catholic Charities USA; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society; the American Association of People with Disabilities; National Immigration Forum; Asian American Justice Center; Campaign for Working Families; Hispanic Coalition; Institute for Social and Economic Development; International Rescue Committee; United Cerebral Palsy; World Relief; as well as hundreds of state and local organizations.

 

(the letter follows)
June 28, 2007

Dear Representative,

Representing a diverse cross-section of organizations from across the country, we write to you today to ask that you support H.R.2608 – the “SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act.” This bipartisan bill is a critical lifeline to thousands of elderly and disabled refugees who are about to lose, or have already lost, their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to the arbitrary seven-year time limit to which their eligibility is limited.

This bill, introduced by Representatives Jim McDermott (D-7th WA) and Jerry Weller (R-11th IL), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, will provide a two-year extension of SSI eligibility for elderly and disabled refugees, as well as a provision to cover those who lost benefits prior to enactment of the legislation.The bill will also ensure that refugees who are making efforts to become citizens, but are caught up in the processing backlogs through no fault of their own, are given additional time to naturalize. H.R.2608 will provide vital relief to thousands of refugees who have already fallen into extreme destitution.

The number of people who are losing their life-sustaining SSI benefits, in large part due to delays in the immigration system beyond their control, is climbing. The Social Security Administration currently projects that 50,000 elderly and disabled refugees will face extreme hardship and destitution by 2012 due to the suspension of their SSI benefits. These individuals fled persecution or torture in countries such as Iran, Russia, Iraq, Vietnam and Somalia, and now are too elderly or disabled to support themselves.

As more and more people begin to reach the end of their seven-year eligibility period, the human impact of this restrictive time limit has become increasingly dire and all the more intolerable. Some will lose health insurance as well, because SSI and Medicaid eligibility are typically linked. Among those who have already lost SSI benefits is a Jewish elderly couple from the former Soviet Union; the husband is deaf and the wife suffers from heart disease. However, this restriction does not affect only the elderly, as illustrated by the case of a 16 year-old Iranian boy with mental retardation, autism, seizures, and severe macrocephaly who lost his SSI benefits and Medicaid health insurance due to the seven-year time limit. These are only but two of the thousands of heartbreaking stories that we will continue to be confronted with unless Congress acts now to lengthen the insufficient eligibility period for this extremely vulnerable population.

The crisis is already upon us. Each and every month, elderly and disabled refugees are losing their lifeline of support. With the exception of West Virginia, no state is left untouched by this arbitrary time limit. Some 4,500 people will lose their SSI benefits in fiscal year 2007 alone. This bill enjoys bipartisan support, builds on similar proposals in recent Bush Administration budgets, and contains a savings provision that will cover the modest cost of the extension. Given the urgency of the situation and the life-threatening consequences that these individuals face, we strongly urge you to support the passage of H.R.2608 this year. We are hopeful that Congress will act quickly and decisively to prevent the unnecessary hardship that this already-victimized population stands to suffer. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

National
American Academy of HIV
American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
American Association of Jews from the Former USSR, Inc
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American Friends Service Committee
American Jewish Committee
American Network of Community Options and Resources
American Occupational Therapy Association
Americans for Democratic Action, Inc
Asian American Justice Center
Asian Americans for Equality
Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA)
Boat People SOS
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

International Service Center
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jubilee Campaign USA Inc
Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office of the Wheaton Franciscans
Living Room, Inc
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
Lutheran Services in America
9to5, National Association of Working Women

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council on Aging
National Immigration Forum
National Immigration Law Center
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
National Priorities Project
National Senior Citizens Law Center
National Women's Law Center
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
New Sudan Generation
Northwest Health Law Advocates
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Progressive Jewish Alliance
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
RESULTS
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
The AIDS Institute
The Arc of the United States
The Coalition on Human Needs
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious
The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children
The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Cerebral Palsy
United Jewish Communities
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
USAction
Gray Panthers California
HomeBase- San Francisco, CA
International Rescue Committee- San Diego Regional Resettlement Office
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
Jewish Family and Children's Services of the East Bay - Berkley, California
Jewish Family Service of San Diego - California
Korean Resouce Center, Los Angeles, CA
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center - CA
Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc.-Los Angeles
Palo Alto Association of Veterans of World War II, California
Progressive Jewish Alliance- California
Protection and Advocacy, Inc. - Sacramento, CA
Sacramento Mutual Housing Association, CA
San Diego Hunger Coalition - CA
San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition - CA
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 - Northern California
SIREN, Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network- San Jose, CA
St. Mary’s Center- Oakland, CA
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church- San Rafael, CA
The International Institute of the Bay Area - CA
The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring- Southern California District
Western Center on Law and Poverty- Los Angeles & Sacramento, CA

Colorado
9to5 Colorado
Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, a project of the American Friends Service Committee
Colorado Progressive Coalition
RESULTS of Aurora, Colorado
Rocky Mountain Survivors Center- Denver, CO

Connecticut
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Norwich, Inc - CT
Collaborative Center for Justice, Inc. – Hartford, CT
Connecticut Citizen Action Group
Connecticut Legal Services
International Institute of CT, Inc.- Bridgeport, CT
Jewish Family Services - Danbury, CT
People of Faith CT -West Hartford, CT
Regional Network of Programs Inc./Prospect House - Bridgeport, CT
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Project IRENE - Illinois
Protestants for the Common Good, Chicago, IL

Indiana
CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, Indianapolis, IN

Iowa
Iowa Citizen Action Network

Kentucky
College Democrats of America- Morehead State University Chapter
Jewish Family & Vocational Service (Louisville, Kentucky)
The Community Relations Council of the Jewish Community Federation of Louisville

Louisiana
LA Harm Reduction Coalition - Louisiana

Maine
Catholic Charities Maine Refugee & Immigration Services- Portland, ME
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Portland, Maine
Legal Services for the Elderly- Scarborough, Maine
Maine Equal Justice Partners
Maine People's Alliance
Oganizationg to Win Economic Rights- Portland, Maine
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
Waterville Area Bridges for Peace and Justice - Waterville and surrounding communities

Maryland
Jewish Family Services - Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland Association of Jews from the Former USSR
Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association
Progressive Maryland
Public Justice Center- Baltimore MD
The Senior Connection of Montgomery County- Silver Spring, MD

Massachusetts
Community Legal Services And Counseling Center in Cambridge, MA
Disability Law Center, Inc.- Boston, MA
First Congregational Church of Reading- Reading, MA
International Rescue Committee Boston Office
International Institute of New Jersey
International Institute of New Jersey
Jewish Federation of Monmouth County- NJ
Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry in New Jersey
Migration and Refugee Services of the Diocese of Trenton- Trenton, NJ
New Jersey Citizen Action
Temple Shalom- Aberdeen, NJ
The Human Concerns/Social Justice Committee of St. Anselm's Church- Wayside, NJ
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey
The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, New Jersey Region
UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey

New Mexico
Community Action New Mexico
Domestic Unity- New Mexico
Empowering Our Communities in New Mexico- Bernalillo, NM
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty- Albuquerque, NM
New Mexico PACE
Open Hands- Sante Fe, NM
State of New Mexico’s Human Services Department

New York
Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture- New York, NY
Bukharian Jewish Center, New York
Cathedral Emergency Services- Syracuse, NY
Center for Independence of the Disabled - New York.
Citizen Action of New York
Claire Heureuse Community Center, Inc - New York
Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc - New York
Community Healthcare Network- New York City
Community HIV AIDS Mobilization Project - CHAMP, New York
Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse, New York
Empire Justice Center, New York
Episcopal Migration Ministries - NYC
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies- New York City
JBFCS, Manhattan North Community Counseling Center
Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services- New York, NY

Oregon
Asian Pacific American Community Support and Service Association (APACSA) - Portland, OR
Community Action Directors of Oregon (CADO)
Disability Navigators Inc- Oregon
Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)- Portland, Oregon
Interfaith Action for Justice - Bend, Oregon
Klamath Lake Community Action Servics - Klamath Falls, OR
Oregon Action
Peaceful Place- Oregon
The Advocacy Coalition for Seniors and People with Disabilities - OR
The Human Services Coalition of Oregon

Pennsylvania
HIAS and Council Migration Service of Philadelphia
JCCs of Greater Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
JEVS Human Services- Philadelphia
JEVS Social Services (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Jewish Family and Children’s Services (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Jewish Family Service of Greater Wilkes-Barre (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania)
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Maternity Care Coalition- Philadelphia, PA
Mount St Joseph – St Elizabeth, PA
National Council of Jewish Women--PA
New World Association- Philadelphia, PA
Pennsylvania Refugee Refugee Resettlement Program
St. Johns Lutheran Church- Lewistown, PA
YWCA Philadelphia

Rhode Island
National Association of Social Workers - Rhode Island Chapter
Rhode Island Ocean State Action

South Carolina
Columbia Jewish Federation/Jewish Family Service- Columbia SC
Jewish Family Service (Columbia, South Carolina)
South Dakota
Systematic Theology and Christian Heritage- Sioux Falls, SD

Break the Chain Campaign
Campaign for Working Families
Catholic Charities USA
Center for Civil Justice
Disability Navigators Inc
EESA-Eastern European Service Agency
Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Hispanic Coalition
HIV Medicine Association
HIVictorious, Inc.
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Immigrant and Refugee Rights Program, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Institute for Peace and Justice
Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED)
International AIDS Empowerment
International District Housing Alliance
International Rescue Committee
Wider Opportunities for Women
Women of Reform Judaism
World Relief
YWCA USA

Local/State/Regional
Alabama
Collat Jewish Family Services - Birmingham, Alabama

Alaska
Alaska Center for Public Policy
Refugee Assistance & Immigration Services (RAIS) – Alaska

Arizona
Area Agency on Aging, Region One- Phoenix, AZ
Arizona Advocacy Network
Jewish Family & Children’s Service - Tucson, Arizona
Pima Council on Aging- Tucson, AZ
Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona

Arkansas
Holy Angels Convent - Arkansas
St. Augustine Catholic Church- North Little Rock, AR
St. Augustine Center for Children, Inc.-North Little Rock, AR

California
9to5 Bay Area
9to5 Los Angeles
ACLU of Southern California
Asian Law Alliance- San Jose, CA
Asian Law Caucus- Northern California
Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California
Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (BAIRC)- Oakland, CA
Bet Tzedek Legal Services- Los Angeles County
California Church IMPACT
California Immigrant Policy Center
Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc
Center for Gender and Refugee Studies- San Francisco, CA
City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission -Los Angeles, CA
DisAbled Student Union at Pacific School of Religion - Berkeley, CA
Ethiopian Community Services, Inc. - California
Fresno Stonewall Democrats- Fresno, CA

Florida
Catholic Charities Legal Services - Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.
Catholic Charities of Central Florida
Center for Independent Living of South Florida, Inc- Miami-Dade County, Florida
Florida Alliance Pro- Legalization
Florida Consumer Action Network
Florida Fiscal Policy Project - Miami, Florida
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center
Gulfcoast Legal Services, Inc - FL
Hispanic American Council, Florida Alliance Pro-Legalization
Jewish Family Service Inc. of Broward County - Plantation, Florida
Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County - FL
Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Orlando, Florida
Refugee Immigration Project, Jacksonville (FL) Area Legal Aid
St. Johns County Legal Aid - St. Augustine, FL
The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc
Youth Co-Op, Inc – Florida

Georgia
Atlanta 9to5
Georgia Rural Urban Summit- Decatur, GA
Good Shepherd Services of Atlanta
Gwinnett Ministries Network- Gwinnett County, Georgia
Refugee Family Services- Stone Mountain, Georgia
Women Watch Afrika, Inc, Decatur, GA

Hawaii
Na Loio - Immigrant Rights and Public Interest Legal Center- Honolulu, Hawaii

Idaho
Agency for New Americans- Boise, Idaho
Idaho Office for Refugees
United Vision for Idaho

Illinois
Citizen Action/Illinois
Commission on Religion & Race - Naperville IL
Grace United Methodist Church- - Naperville IL
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights (Midwest region)
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Chicago
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
JALSA - the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action- Boston
Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly - Boston, MA
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
Medical-Legal Partnership for Children Boston Medical Center
Strongest Link AIDS Services- Essex County, MA
The Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations

Michigan
ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services - Dearborn
Jewish Family Service - Detroit, Michigan
Jewish Family Services - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Michigan Citizen Action
Oakland County Welfare Rights Organization- Pontiac, MI
The IHM Justice, Peace and Sustainability Office, Michigan

Minnesota
Jewish Community Action, St. Paul, MN
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
National Council of Jewish Women- Minnetonka, MN
Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota

Missouri
Bi-Lingual International Assistant Services- St. Louis, MO
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of St. Louis
Jewish Vocational Service/Center for New Americans- Kansas City, MO
Missouri Association for Social Welfare
Missouri Budget Project- St. Louis, MO
Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Associates - Missouri
St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council - St. Louis, MO

Montana
Montana People's Action

New Hampshire
New Hampshire Citizens Alliance

New Jersey
Community FoodBank of New Jersey
Congregation Brothers of Israel- Long Branch, New Jersey
Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula- Far Rockaway, NY
Jewish Family Services of NENY (Albany, New York)
Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of Western New York, Inc.
Metro New York Health Care For All Campaign
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty - NY
New York Association on Independent Living, Inc
New York City Department for the Aging
New York Disaster Interfaith Services
New York Immigration Coalition
Society of Jesus, New York Province- Albany, NY
Syracuse Habitat for Humanity, Inc - NY
The Central Queens YM&YWHA, Forest Hills, New York
The International Institute of Buffalo, NY
The Rockland Immigration Coalition - NY
UJA-Federation of New York
US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Albany Feild Office - NY
West Side Campaign Against Hunger - New York
YKASEC - Empowering the Korean American Community, Flushing, NY

North Carolina
Episcopal Migration Ministries - eastern North Carolina
North Carolina Refugee Health Coordinator

North Dakota
NDPeople.org - North Dakota

Ohio
Catholic Charities Health and Human Services of the Diocese of Cleveland
Greater Dayton Vietnamese Association - Greater Dayton, Ohio area
Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland
Jewish Family Service of Toledo, Inc. - Toledo, Ohio
Jewish Family Services - Columbus, Ohio
Jewish Family Services - Youngstown, Ohio
Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton Jewish Community Relations Council - Dayton, Ohio
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry- Cleveland, Ohio
Ohio Jewish Communities
Refugee & Immigration Services- Columbus, OH

Oklahoma
YWCA Multicultural Center- Tulsa, OK

Tennessee
Jewish Family Service of Nashville and Middle Tennessee
Tennessee Citizen Action

Texas
Catholic Charities Diocese of Ft. Worth, Inc.
Jewish Family and Children’s Service (San Antonio, Texas)
Jewish Family Service (Houston, Texas)
REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Inc- San Benito, TX
South Texas Food Bank
Texas Conference United Methodist Church Board of Church & Society

Utah
Jewish Family Service of Salt Lake
Learning Loft - Salt Lake Valley, Utah
Utah Community Action Partnership Association
Utah Housing Coalition

Vermont
Central Vermont Community Action Council
Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program
VT Affordable Housing Coalition

Virginia
Bay Aging- Urbanna, VA
Center for Multicultural Services- Falls Church, VA
Disabled Action Committee - Virginia
Potomac Legal Aid Society - Virginia
Rappahannock Area Agency on Aging, Inc.- Fredericksburg, VA
Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School for Christian Education - Richmond, VA

Washington
Asian Counseling & Referral Service- Seattle, WA
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington
Jewish Family Service of Seattle (Seattle, Washington)
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle (Seattle, Washington)
Solid Ground- Seattle, WA
South Sound Outreach Services- Tacoma, Washington
Washington Community Action Network
Washington Senior Citizens' Lobby- Olympia, WA

Washington DC
Whitman-Walker Clinic - Washington, DC

West Virginia
West Virginia Citizen Action Group

Wisconsin
9to5 Poverty Network Initiative (Wisconsin)
Citizen Action of Wisconsin
Milwaukee Association of Russian-speaking Jews
Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations
UMOS, Inc- Milwaukee, WI
Wisconsin Jewish Conference